Outdoor Learning at School – why do we do it?
At St George’s, we understand the enormous benefits to our children of learning in the outdoors and, therefore, provide opportunities for this at every stage of the Junior School. Timetabled into the curriculum, outdoor learning covers a variety of subjects, enhancing learning in all areas. A Maths lesson, created merely with chalk and the playground surface covers textbook work in a stimulating and active way, from the creation of a toy shop to decimal hopscotch. What better way to learn about shape than to make a kite and go fly it? A gorgeous spring afternoon provides the stimulus for creative haiku poetry and a rainy day lends itself to various aspects of science.
Using the outdoors as a more diverse and dynamic classroom, for a task that could otherwise be done indoors, has more impact on the girls. Some activities will be geared towards an awareness of self or designed to nurture life skills, key building blocks for the future. Other activities are aimed directly at teaching our children an awareness of their natural environment and the part they play in it, reconnecting the current generation with Nature and building an understanding of our planet’s sustainability. Minibeast hunts, nature trails, observational drawing, bird watching, den making, tree climbing, making mud pies, leaf sculpting and toasting marshmallows are just a few of the children’s favourite activities.
Of course, the benefits of outdoor learning for children extend beyond the school’s curriculum. Outdoor learning encompasses the well-being of the whole child and offers them experiences that they will draw upon time and again throughout their lives.
At St George’s, we are committed to helping our pupils on this journey and getting the best start to leading a happy, healthy and enriching lifestyle.
12 Reasons to Take Learning Outside the Classroom:
1. Increases physical health – physical exercise in the outdoors is a vital element to enable a child’s body to develop and grow and can be key to resolving some health issues. Benefits include: building muscle, strengthening bones, improving digestion, bolstering the immune system, facilitating sleep, helping the body to heal, increasing endorphins and increasing energy levels, to name but a few.
2. Develops personal and social communication skills – out with the confines of the classroom, children are far more likely to turn to each other to help complete a task or solve a problem than to seek the teacher’s assistance. Teamwork, negotiation, mediation, compromise, problem-solving, respect, cooperation are all essential life skills.
3. Makes learning engaging and relevant – increasing knowledge and skills in a practical context: taking the curriculum outside makes any subject fun, interactive and often more memorable. Hands-on teaching and a multi-sensory experience, where children are able to investigate and discover things for themselves, opens up a whole new world of learning and has a higher chance of knowledge being retained rather than with the completion of a worksheet in the classroom.
4. Stimulates gross and fine motor skills – through physical play, outdoor learning increases balance, spatial awareness, understanding, trust and self-belief.
5. Increases mental and spiritual health – supporting wellbeing, self-confidence, self- esteem and emotional resilience, and reducing anxiety and stress levels.
6. Develops personal responsibility and respect for others and the natural world – developing an understanding of the need for a sustainable relationship between people and planet. We encourage our pupils to be responsible citizens, knowing that what they do not value or protect, they will lose.
7. Encourages perseverance and increases independence – given a practical task, particularly one of their own design, children outdoors demonstrate an increased drive and motivation to succeed without adult intervention.
8. Extends personal horizons and provides new opportunities – investigation, exploration and self-led discovery in unstructured play have an important role in a child’s learning journey. Some children who are less academic in class can be born leaders in the outdoors – the roles are reversed for them.
9. Nurtures creativity and imagination through limitless and ever-changing resources – increasing sensory and aesthetic awareness, the physical freedom of the outdoors gives real freedom to the mind and stimulates creative play. Unlike man-made equipment, natural resources and features are non-prescriptive – their uses limited only by the child’s imagination: provide an area of woodland or natural materials for a child, and they will use their imagination to make them come alive.
10. Develops learning through play and experimentation – becoming nature detectives and scientists, children thrive and learn in real life contexts.
11. Increases motivation and focus – giving greater clarity in thinking, increasing alertness and improving concentration. Children are engaged, involved and enjoying themselves.
12. Provides a forum for problem solving, risk-taking, discovery, adventure, challenge – and FUN!
We are incredibly lucky at St George’s to have so many areas within our school grounds for our outdoor learning activities: The Wild Woods, both wet weather and grass play areas, Astroturf pitches, the Fantastical Forest, athletic tracks and a long jump pit – we use them all and the children love it!
Paula Sinclair is a Former P5 teacher and curriculum leader of outdoor learning at St George’s. She wrote an article about outdoor learning which was published in the magazine Wood Wise, Woodland Conservation News, December 2017.
What do our girls think about learning outdoors?
- “We learn about Nature and how it works.”
- “We’re not stuck in a classroom all day.”
- “We have fun.”
- “We learn about the outdoors.”
- “It makes learning more child friendly.”
- ”I like working with people I don’t normally play with.”
- “It’s more exciting.”
- “We get to give Nature a home.”
- “We experience Nature – the snow, the rain, the ice.”
- “We stay fit.” “We get healthy.”
- ” It helps us get over things we think we’re scared of – like spiders!”
- “You get to know people better.”