Outdoor Classrooms: Bringing Education Outdoors

According to a recent study, most children would rather read, help with housework or even do their homework than play outside.

The study, which was carried out by JCB Kids, revealed that 43% of parents think their children would rather watch television than play outdoors and a third claimed their kids would only be interested in going outside if it was sunny.

Additionally, 43% of parents said that they relied on school to provide their children with time outdoors and would rather rely on break-times and PE lessons than take their kids outside themselves.

Growing Pressure on Schools?

These results are, of course, somewhat alarming. Children of the 21st century are disconnecting with nature and as a consequence, are missing out on the benefits that being outside can offer. With many parents stating explicitly that they expect schools to provide time outside for their children, pressure is now particularly intense for the education system to achieve this.

However, time constraints, lack of facilities and of course, the unreliable British weather, all mean that learning outdoors can be a real challenge. The question that many schools are asking is: ‘How can we create outdoor classrooms, or learning environments where children can benefit from being outside?’

Outdoor Classrooms: Achievable, or Just Wishful Thinking?

In our current era, when so much prevalence is placed on technology; many educational establishments wonder just how they can create useful, functional outdoor areas, which can be used regardless of weather.

One of the most effective ways of achieving this is by investing in a specifically designed outdoor classroom. This type of area can be custom-designed to fit within a variety of spaces and provides valuable shelter from the elements, whilst enabling children to learn in the fresh air.

How Does it Work?

A specially designed outdoor classroom area, which generally uses a canopy to create shelter, provides a safe, comfortable play or learning zone for your class.

Generally, you’ll require an initial design, where a specialist will come to assess the location, considering vital aspects such as access points, safety in relation to other buildings and level of shelter required.

They’ll then put together a design for your approval. Many outdoor canopies come in a variety of different materials, such as clear and opal PET, stainless steel or steel. Once the design is approved and materials decided upon, construction begins.

Construction is generally fairly quick, though of course, exact duration depends on the size of the structure, plus complexity of the design.

How to Use Your Outdoor Classroom

Once constructed, your outdoor canopied area offers scope for limitless outdoor activities. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Pre-school. Use the area to place a sand pit or water tray. Both these activities can be messy and placing them outside not only encourages children to play in the fresh air, but also reduces mess in the classroom. Creating different zones, such as an art area, reading area and construction area, also works very well.
  • Primary school. Use cushions to create a reading zone, where children can take a book from the library and read outside. Additionally, it’s a great place to perform plays, make music and do presentations to the rest of the class.
  • Secondary school. Older children require fresh air as much as younger children and it’s a great opportunity to provide a welcome ‘change of scenery’. Reading Macbeth on a rainy day under a canopy provides a sense of atmosphere that a classroom struggles to match!

Flexible Outdoor Learning Space

Outdoor canopies offer a lot of flexibility, with the option to enclose the area or leave it open at the sides and even the option to add lighting if required. If you’d like to find out more about installing an outdoor classroom in your school, get in touch with us today.