Research has shown that the typical classroom — consisting of desks and chairs facing a whiteboard on the wall, might not be the most effective learning environment. We know that it is certainly not the only learning environment either.
For many children, when they are not at school, they spend their ‘down time’ indoors playing games and using tablets as opposed to playing outdoors with their friends, like previous generations. Introducing outdoor play at school provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and engage with nature.
Together with Infinite Playgrounds, creators of sensory playgrounds, we look at the benefits of learning outdoors and how to adapt lessons to teach outside.
Children of this generation are less likely to appreciate the outdoors as much as previous generations. Learning outdoors encourages children to appreciate what the outdoors has tooffer, as well as many other benefits.
Physical activity should be a key part of a child’s childhood – and outdoor learning provides an opportunity for further physical activity, that indoor classrooms can’t offer. In the school yard or in a sensory playground, there is lots of space for the children to run around and play — raising their heart rate and keeping them active.
The outdoors is a goldmine for children to discover new things; from plants they may not have seen before to minibeasts that catch their eye. Before the children learn what these are, they might use their imagination with their peers to guess what a certain animal is or what one of the plants is called. This stretch of imagination will become useful when they begin to write creatively or perform during drama exercises.
Using physical things when teaching is great for children as it encourages them to interact and engage with the lesson. When children are learning about how plants grow, for example, it will make the lesson much more memorable for them when they can touch the plants and the soil. 92% of teachers surveyed said that their pupils were more engaged with learning when they were outdoors.
85% of teachers reported that they saw a positive impact on their pupils’ behaviour when they were being taught outside. This could be down to the children finding more enjoyment in outdoor classrooms — 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons outdoors.
Attendance rates might also benefit if children are enjoying their lessons more, it is likely that they will have more motivation to come to school.
How to take your teaching outdoors?
You don’t necessarily have to disrupt your teaching techniques and the curriculum to take your lessons outdoors. There are many ways that you can alter your lesson plans so that you can take them outside. The main thing about outdoor teaching is that it shouldn’t be overly teacher-controlled — it is important for children to be aware of the safety hazards outdoors. But apart from this, they should be encouraged to step outside of their comfort zones.
When you move a lesson outdoors, you suddenly have access to many new resources, in addition to a lot of extra space. Teaching outside can be beneficial for the teacher as well as the children, 90% of staff found that outdoor teaching was useful for curriculum delivery.
Maths can be taught using different techniques depending on the age group of your class. For the younger children, consider bringing shapes and counting outdoors and asking some of the following questions: How many petals does this flower have? How many circles can you spot? How many legs does the picnic table have? You could take pictures of the shapes to have a look at when you get back into the classroom.
For an older age group, encourage them to measure each other doing the long jump or provide stop watches and let them time each other running a certain distance. When you get back to the classroom, teach the children how to plot these numbers on a graph.
Make use of the nature and wildlife available in the outdoor space. Minibeasts are great for encouraging children to make use of their imagination. Consider allowing the children to explore the area around them and draw some minibeasts that they can see. When you get back to the classroom encourage the children to write down a short story involving their pictures. For younger children, they could colour in the pictures when they get back and talk about a made-up story.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to science and the outdoors. You can teach children how plants grow and even allow them to plant their own seeds, visiting them regularly and explaining the scientific processes behind the plant’s development. Children can also learn about heart rate through exercising outdoors.
The benefits of teaching outdoors are hard to ignore, so, the next time you are planning your week ahead consider taking the class outdoors and allow your pupils to push their boundaries.