Is it possible to extend learning outside of the classroom?

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When you picture a school classroom, what do you think of? Most likely it is a room, indoors, with desks and chairs facing a whiteboard on the wall. It’s important to remember, however, that this isn’t the only environment that a child can learn in and, as research has shown, it may not be the most effective.

In the past, as many parents are aware, children would spend time playing outdoors with friends. Nowadays however, it’s not uncommon for a child to come in after school and spend the evening on a tablet or gaming device. Introducing outdoor play at school provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and engage with nature.

So, what are the benefits of learning outside of the classroom and can you adapt your curriculum to outdoor learning? Let’s investigate:

The advantages of learning outside

Outdoor learning can lead to a higher appreciation of the outdoors amongst pupils, but there are other benefits too.

One advantage is encouraging the children to partake in exercise — something that isn’t possible inside the classroom. In the school yard or in a sensory playground, there is lots of space for the children to run around and play — raising their heartrate and keeping them active.

A second gain for children is encouraging them to be more imaginative. There is plenty for children to discover outdoors; 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 during drama exercises.

When students are being taught about photosynthesis, or growing plants for example, the outdoors can be taken advantage of. It’s likely that the lesson will be much more memorable for pupils when they can touch the plants and the soil. This could be down to the children finding more enjoyment in outdoor classrooms — 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons outdoors.

There is some possibility that more outdoor lessons could lead to higher attendance rates too. If children are enjoying their lessons more, it is likely that they will have more motivation to come to school.

How to adapt your lessons to the outdoors

Taking some lessons outside doesn’t have to interfere with your planning too much. 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 teaching outside, you have access to more resources. 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.

Teaching maths

Why not take your mathematics class outdoors? 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.

If you teach older children, ask them to practise their measuring skills. This could be done by encouraging 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.

Teaching English

If you’re a teacher of English, there are loads of reasons that you should venture outside to inspire learning! 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.

Teaching science

Science is everywhere when you venture 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.

As we can see, many of the core lessons can be taken outdoors and there are many advantages for children. The next time you are planning your week ahead consider taking the class outdoors and allow your pupils to push their boundaries.

This article was created by Infinite Playgrounds, designers and retailers of sensory playgrounds

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