Roald Dahl once said, “The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves.”
Teachers, parents and pupils are all keenly aware of the benefits of outdoor learning for school-aged children. There is now compelling evidence to demonstrate the far-reaching and holistic positive impact on child development. Benefits to the body through physical movement might seem obvious but what about the impact on the mind such as reduced stress.
The difficulty for teachers sometimes arises in managing the practicalities of the natural environment with the challenges of risk and unpredictability that are often simpler to manage within the classroom environment. The solidity of the classroom offers security, consistency of climate, defined boundaries and all of the necessary facilities within easy reach!
However, along with the greater risks comes a great deal of additional learning. Take the classroom into the great outdoors and children will not only get the spoken message of the teaching but a whole host of other more holistic lessons too. Young people who are taught outdoors for some of the curricula demonstrate increased motivation and the tenacity which comes with encouragement to keep going even when it seems tough.
Being offered opportunities to learn through exploration and experimentation provide pupils with a whole new perspective on education. Just think about how excited your children get when they go on a school trip and how many stories they have to tell on their return! They are beginning to understand that learning happens everywhere – not just when they are sitting down in a classroom. This in itself encourages children to learn independently by exploring their surroundings.
The best news is that it can cost very little and can be incorporated into all areas of the curriculum with relative ease. One solution that many schools now try to incorporate into their infrastructure is easy access to an outdoor area, ideally adjacent to the classroom, as well as large opening glazed doors which will help to bring the outdoors in. Purpose designed buildings that encourage children (and teachers) to access the outdoors as regularly as possible will help to ensure maximum benefits can be gained throughout a child’s education.