The conventional brick-and-mortar classrooms of UK schools have, for the most part, stood unchanged for decades. However, the increasing understanding of diverse learning styles and the benefits of outdoor learning are prompting educators to rethink this traditional model. Outdoor classroom environments not only offer students the chance to connect with nature, but can significantly enhance learning experiences in unique ways. Here’s how schools can create these dynamic environments, based on input from delegates and suppliers at the Education Forum…
- Recognising the Benefits:
- Before delving into logistics, it’s essential to understand why outdoor classrooms are beneficial. They offer students hands-on learning experiences, promote physical activity, reduce stress, and can particularly benefit those with special educational needs. Studies have shown that learning in green spaces can improve student concentration, creativity, and cognitive abilities.
- Selecting the Right Spot:
- Not all outdoor spaces are suitable for learning. Schools should select areas that are relatively quiet, free from distractions, and safe for students. This could be a garden, a dedicated section of the playground, or even a nearby park. The chosen area should be easily accessible to students and staff.
- Flexible Seating:
- Traditional desks may not be feasible outdoors. Instead, schools can opt for movable benches, picnic tables, or even large floor cushions. This flexible seating allows for a more relaxed and adaptable learning environment. It’s also worth considering weather-resistant furniture that can endure the UK’s varied climate.
- Utilising Nature as a Teaching Tool:
- The environment itself can become a focal point of lessons. Whether it’s biology lessons in a garden, art classes inspired by natural beauty, or literature classes accompanied by the chirping of birds, nature offers endless teaching opportunities.
- Weather Considerations:
- The UK’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. While sunny days are ideal for outdoor learning, schools must have contingency plans for rain or colder days. This could include temporary canopies, outdoor heaters, or simply having an alternative indoor lesson plan.
- Interactive Learning Stations:
- Instead of a traditional front-facing teaching approach, schools can set up multiple learning stations outdoors. These stations, equipped with resources like magnifying glasses, plant identifiers, or art supplies, can encourage interactive and exploratory learning.
- Safety Measures:
- The safety of students is paramount. Outdoor classrooms should be enclosed to prevent unwanted intrusions and ensure students remain within designated areas. Ground surfaces should be even to prevent trips, and any water features should be safely secured.
- Incorporating Technology:
- While outdoor classrooms capitalise on nature, this doesn’t mean technology can’t be integrated. Portable devices, such as tablets, can be used for research or interactive learning apps, bridging the gap between traditional and modern learning techniques.
- Regular Maintenance:
- Nature is ever-evolving, and outdoor spaces require maintenance. Whether it’s pruning trees, ensuring seating remains intact, or checking for potential hazards, regular maintenance ensures the area remains conducive to learning.
Incorporating outdoor classroom environments in UK schools is not just a trend but a reflection of an evolving educational paradigm. As we understand more about holistic learning, the blend of nature and education offers a promising pathway to nurturing well-rounded, inquisitive, and healthy minds.
Do you require outdoor classroom equipment for your school or college? The Education Forum can help!