Top 5 Benefits of Outdoor Learning Posted on 24 June 2021 by Amber Gravenell - Kent Teach in Schools In the UK, we are currently experiencing a beautiful and sunny June! With the arrival of summer, it is the perfect time to consider moving your teaching outside. Going outside has many benefits for both adults and children. With many schools in Kent having playgrounds and playing fields, it is the ideal time to utilise those outdoor spaces. As aforementioned there are numerous benefits of taking your classroom outside. But, we have narrowed them down to five key benefits.Top 5 Benefits1) Improved physical healthSpending time outside is proven to have a positive effect on children’s physical health. Naturally, by going outside, children are more active and lessons can take a more unconventional approach. Having frequent opportunity to move around is essential for childhood development. As well as improving physical fitness, learning outside can aid the development of motor skills, gives the body and mind time to absorb fresh air leading to a reduction in headaches and tiredness, provides valuable exposure to the sun and, in turn, Vitamin D and can improve coordination and balance. Moreover, the opportunity to get active whilst learning helps to burn off some energy and can help to prevent childhood illness.2) Helps to develop an appreciation and understanding of the world around usBy having the opportunity to venture outside, children get to experience more of the world around us. They can observe natural phenomena and have time to notice patterns and regularities. They have an opportunity to notice things they would not ordinarily see during play time, such as a fresh crop of daisies or a newly flourishing tree. Nature is beautiful; being given the time to be surrounded by it allows us to fully appreciate it. For younger children in particular time spent outside is essential to developing their understanding of the world. 3) Improved mental healthTime spent outdoors has a hugely positive impact on mental health. Venturing outside of the classroom for a new learning experience is crucial for some children to improve their self-esteem. Having the confidence to try something new and being able to accept change to routine is crucial for a healthy body and healthy mind. By being outside, children can engage with their exploratory instincts. Exploration helps to improve self-confidence. Moreover, being outside with nature can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and sadness. It has also been proven that nature helps to reduce stress. Learning should always be fun and outdoor learning is no exception; some would argue it is even more fun. A change in routine can help to reignite excitement for learning for children who might be feeling a little demotivated; a change of scenery is always positive!4) Development of key skills, such as problem solvingAs with all lessons, outdoor learning helps develop many key skills! This includes problem solving, patience, resilience, independence, and confidence. The vast array of possibilities for outdoor learning means key skills can easily be integrated into lesson planning. 5) Development of interpersonal skills, such as communication Effective communication is an essential skill, which can be utilised and developed effectively through outdoor learning. Outdoor learning is also perfect for teamwork, which develops key skills such as turn taking, listening and respecting the views of others.How Can Lessons be Adapted for Outdoor Learning?Maths: Place value using nature’s Dienes; use objects such as stones and sticks!Grouping; this could be done by using the children themselves or outdoor objects.Practice telling the time and measuring time using activities, such as races.Measurements with activities, such as long jumping.Create your own word problems using the outdoors and nature, e.g. a daisy. How many petals does the daisy have? If I had 12 daisies, how many petals would there be in total?Make statistics and data representation fun! Grab the chalk and use the playground as a canvas when practicing drawing and labelling those tricky x and y axes!Play a game of make that shape – the children can lay on the field and use their bodies to make various shapes; geometry outside of the box!Practice position and direction with an outdoor game! For example, Simon Says is fantastic for this, ‘Simon Says make one 90 degree turn.’ For added challenge, children could be blindfolded. English: Outdoor drama (no need for hushed indoor voices!)Activities linking to studied texts, for example if you are reading Stig of the Dump, the children can design and build their own Stig den from twigs and natural objects.Observing nature and natural objects to write poems about. Word association gamesWebinars and news reports; the outdoor is perfect for utilising Talking Tins and iPads!Story inspirationWriting instructions – set the children a task of designing something, such as a tent made of natural objects or creating an obstacle course. Then, they need to write a set of instructions using fronted adverbials to tell people what to do. Art:Sketching, painting, collages, graffiti art, portraits – the world is your oyster when it comes to outdoor art lessons!These ideas from Pinterest are perfect if you are lacking inspiration...Nature prints Forest Faces and Mud Monsters Balloon Splatter ArtScience:Outdoor learning is brilliant for topics such as plants and classification – learn with hands-on activities!Use drama to model the difference in particles of liquids, solids and gases.Use the great British weather to demonstrate first-hand the process of evaporation. Conduct nature spotting exercises, such as insects and plants. Science corners are perfect to have permanently in the playground for children to use during break and lunch. Science corners can contain laminated problems and questions, science books and small investigations. A perfect way to build a love of science!Make learning about plants even more fun by creating a class garden! What do you need to do to look after the garden? You can even draw comparisons between plants placed in different parts of the school grounds, such as difference in height. Observations of plants and other natural phenomena help to improve scientific observation skills and is a key skill. Hands on experience makes learning memorable!Forest School This is an excellent way to integrate outdoor learning into the classroom! It is a form of outdoor education which allows pupils to spend time in outdoor spaces with a real emphasis on personal, social and technical skills. It also has proven benefits for interpersonal skills, mental health, and physical fitness. It is a child-centred approach with the children leading their own learning.Montessori Method and Outdoor LearningThe Montessori Method has historically advocated the idea of bringing the inside and the outside together by taking the inside out and bringing the outside in. Outside learning had a whole chapter dedicated to it in Maria Montessori's first book 'The Montessori Method'. Maria Montessori took inspiration from other influential figures at the time. For example, Mrs Latter’s gardening and horticultural approach to education. Baccelli in Paris was inspired by this and developed the idea to recommend small gardens in the grounds of SEN schools. The gardens help children gain gardening skills which would benefit them throughout their lives.The cited examples helped form Maria Montessori’s approach to education with a real emphasis on the importance of real experiences during the EYFS. The below quotes taken from her chapter dedicated to outdoor learning reinforce this. “...the best way of invigorating a child is to immerse him in nature”. “...it is also necessary… to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself a treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature”. Maria Montessori came up with 4 key principles to cover the importance of the outdoors in education. ● Regular and ingrained observation of life’s wonders ● An ingrained understanding and hands on experience of the lives of plants and animals with the knowledge animals and plants in their care are wholly dependent on them. ● Development of patience and optimistic expectations which links directly to faith and philosophy. ● Feeling inspired by nature and aligns with the natural development of humanity.It is undeniable that sensory experiences and memories are the strongest and last the longest. Therefore, at this early stage of education it is vital to provide an education which not only equips children with essential skills but is memorable for the right reasons. Sensory play and sensory education have a meaningful impact; it is remembered for years to come and is a well-rounded activity which yields positive results. So, why not try a spot of outdoor learning this term? You might be amazed by the results.If you are feeling inspired to find out more about outdoor learning, our blog “Maximising ‘Forest School’ Outdoor Learning” is an ideal blog to read next.