Have you heard of Outdoor Classroom Day? It’s a huge global campaign that aims to inspire and celebrate outdoor learning and play.
In 2017, over 2.3 million children worldwide took part, more than 580,000 of which were from the UK and Ireland. This year it’s being held on November 1st, and will see thousands of schools around the world taking lessons outside and prioritising playtime in an effort to teach children and remind staff about the importance of spending time outdoors.
The benefits of outdoor learning have been widely publicised: from building resilience and self-esteem to encouraging collaborative working and communication skills, getting children out of the classroom and into a more natural setting boosts their development and health in a number of ways.
In the words of Elena Pearce, programme manager for the Green Schools Project, "The outdoors provides children with a unique learning experience, one by which they are both encouraged and challenged. Outdoor learning opens opportunities for collaboration and ideas, for knowledge to meet application and for a level of engagement and awareness which travels beyond that of the classroom."
Outdoor Classroom Day in the UK is led by Learning through Landscapes. Carley Sefton, the charity’s CEO, said:
It’s proven that outdoor learning and play increases social skills, integration, engagement with learning, concentration and behaviour. We know that 90% of the teachers who got involved in 2017 said that children were more engaged in their learning and 72% said they were better able to concentrate after learning outdoors. As mental health challenges rise and pressures on children and young people increase, it becomes more and more vital that we harness these easy-to-achieve benefits.
At Trees for Cities, we believe children should spend more time outdoors. Through our Edible Playgrounds programme, we’ve seen first-hand how some fresh air and physical work can decrease levels of stress, increase focus and motivation and improve behaviour overall. Our Headteacher Survey from 2017 showed that all respondents found their Edible Playground had helped their work with children with challenging behaviours, either in some cases (40%) or entirely (60%). Any initiative that encourages learning outside is one we are sure to get behind.
And as Cath Prisk, Global Partnerships Director at Project Dirt – one of the founding organisations behind Outdoor Classroom Day – says:
We also believe [outdoor learning] can help children understand how their actions can decrease or increase their risk to the environment, a crucial learning tool to bring into people’s lives. We want to use this as an opportunity to connect children to the environment and nurture the nature around them.
In an age where we are warned every day of the many threats to the environment, this is an important consideration.
If your school is already signed up to the initiative – fantastic! Do let us know what activities you have planned – tweet us @TreesforCities and include the hashtag #OutdoorClassroomDay. And if you are not yet registered, there’s still time to pull out the stops to make it happen. If you don’t have much time, why not organise a different day for your school to celebrate the wonders that the outdoors has to offer? Head out for a class in the playground, take the children to some local parkland, go on a mini beast hunt – whatever it is, make sure you turn off the iPads, put down the pens, and get outside!
Check out the Outdoor Classroom Day website, where you can register your school’s involvement and find lots of information and inspiration for planning outdoors activities.