It has been suggested through extensive research, that pupils’ grades improve if they have taken part in outdoor learning at some point throughout their education. Can we afford to ignore these suggestions or should we be actively taking lessons outdoors? Unfortunately, this happens far less than it could. Maybe there aren’t enough suggestions in the curriculum; maybe there isn’t enough equipment in the playground; maybe school trips are too expensive.
This blog makes a number of suggestions on how to increase outdoor learning, many of them cost efficient.
1. Nature Based Outdoor Learning
The natural world is a great place to learn and play. Many subjects may be covered in a national park or a woodland area, such as: the recognition of specific plants or animals, the structure and life of a tree, materials of the natural world, and more.
Additionally the children are encouraged to use social skills, communication, team work and co-operation. As they work together to collect and discover objects, they share ideas, presenting their own findings to the rest of the class. This form of outdoor learning has been known to inspire confidence in children who might usually be more introverted, while calming down those who are unruly.
Through nature, children are taught to respect and care for the world around them by growing plants, feeding animals, clearing litter and much more. In an age where recycling and sustainable resources are becoming increasingly encouraged, it is important to introduce these factors early on in life. Children need to know why they should not litter and why it is important to recycle.
There are woodlands and natural parks in every part of the country; a trip to one of these can be a cost effective and exciting day out. The amount of discovery that can take place at a nature reserve is extremely high, and children are able to learn much more by spending a day there, than they would sat in a classroom reading text books.
Many schools are now creating their own natural play areas inside the school grounds. ESP have designed a number of ‘forest schools’ throughout the country and have installed items from our natural play range, which features products such as bird tables, hedgehog boxes and ladybird towers as well as planters, growing boxes and digging pits. These products are perfect for encouraging outdoor learning on a daily basis.
2. Multi-Skills Learning and Playground Games
Taking lessons into the outdoors and combining them with fun and physical activity is a great way to increase the effectiveness of teaching. Through kinaesthetic learning, children feel the effects of physical activity while utilising their brain power to process important curriculum lessons.
There are countless possible games that can be used to to teach the curriculum. Even a simple 1-100 number grid playground marking presents hundreds of opportunities for mathematics problem solving while getting the heart racing. The children won’t even realise the amount of information they are processing as they take part in various fun and games.
One of the biggest benefits of multi-skills training is the contribution towards improved motor skills such as catching, throwing, running, walking, balancing and more. Skills which are absolutely essential for success in sporting activities. Unfortunately, these skills are often skipped and children are thrown in at the deep end as far as sport is concerned. How can children be expected to effectively dribble a ball across a pitch and put it in the back of the net if they havent even learned how to run properly? Schools are certainly taking all this on board and our multi-skills packages are becoming increasingly popular.
3. Educational Playground Equipment
Some schools have chosen to take lessons outdoors by providing children with education-based playground equipment. These items provide children with a fun and exciting context to learn, practise and record curriculum learning. It is important to let the children leave the confines of the indoor classroom as often as possible. Not only is learning improved, but health and well being is increased.
ESP provide a wide range of subject specific play equipment for outdoor learning, such as: the maths play range which helps with problem solving, counting and plotting; the science range which includes products based on the weather, measuring and nature; the music range which introduces children to rhythm, timing and melody; and the nature range, which we have already discussed.
4. Outdoor Classrooms
An outdoor classroom can be used in just the same way as a traditional indoor classroom but with the additional benefit of being outdoors. Shelters may contain seating, chalkboards, dry wipe boards, game boards and much more. This means that most activities that can be done indoors can also be done outdoors, so why not take every opportunity to give children the joy of outdoor learning?
Not only is an outdoor classroom useful for taking lessons outdoors, but it also provides children with an area to relax, socialise, wait for parents and shield from the weather.
We manufacture and install outdoor classrooms in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at our playground shelters for information on how we can build the perfect shelter for you.
5. Creative Play
The outdoors is a great place for children to flex their creativity. Fresh air and the sound and look of nature are perfect elements for enlightening inspiration. There are also many natural resources that lend themselves towards creativity whilst most outdoor learning areas are great for imaginative role-play.
Storytelling and roleplaying works wonders at bringing children together and cooperating with one another. These social benefits improve behaviour, while increasing the confidence of quiet children and giving more energetic children an outlet for their energy.
The effects that creative play has on other subjects is fairly obvious. Creative thinking can be applied not only to play time but also to English, Drama, Art and Music lessons. It allows children to ‘think outside the box’ and create things that are unique. As a result of their own creations, they are filled with happiness and a feeling of success.
ESP offer lots of creative play equipment aimed at providing children with additional areas for using their imagination including: items for den building, such as wigwam posts; roadway playground markings; play huts for role play; and much more.
Is your school active in encouraging outdoor learning?
As you have seen from this post, there are so many activities for outdoor learning. They need not cost much, and its up to you to use your imagination as much as it is up to the children to use theirs.
ESP are constantly researching and finding new ways to take the curriculum outdoors. We keep ourselves as up to date as possible, creating unique future classics and designing new products to suit the times.
Further Reading on the benefits of outdoor learning.
More details on evidence of improved learning from outdoor learning can be found at the following resource on the Education Scotland Website.