Come on children, time to go outside. It's Outdoor Classroom Day.
Which lessons do your children talk about when they come home from school? What is it that gets them bubbling over with enthusiasm? Which lessons and skills do you remember learning? The fondest most engrained memories are most likely to be those gained whilst outside, sitting on the grass reciting French verbs on a sunny day will stick in your head far more than the same in a dusty classroom. Trips to the countryside are remembered in vivid colour, getting water in your wellies, taking hundreds of photos of flattened fauna (I will never know why the kids always preferred the flat roadkill versions to the living breathing creatures in front of them - just one of those things!), the person who fell over the stile / into the stream, the one who screams as a woodlouse meanders across the picnic table.
Learning outdoors is different.
"Lessons learnt outdoors, whether maths, science or language, often stay with us for life. Being outdoors helps children focus, boosts creativity and imagination, and can simply be more fun." So say the team behind Outdoor Classroom Day a global campaign to get more children learning and playing outside. It's been shown that outdoor learning is more engaging as well as being of huge benefit, improving health and creating a better connection with nature, maybe even a lifelong passion. A few years ago it was reported that 74% of UK children spend less time outdoors than the 60 minutes recommended for prison inmates. Learning through Landscapes have found that 65% of primary schools (globally, not just in the UK) get less than one hour of playtime per day and 87% of teachers want more time to take lessons outside.
Earlier this month researchers at University College London published research showing that children at Key Stage 1 (5-7) have 45 minutes less break time per week than in 1995 and for KS 3 and 4 it's decreased by over an hour (65 minutes). More here.
Putting theory into practice - does it work?
In 2014 Sue Waite from Plymouth University gave us an insight in the Natural Connections Demonstration Project which was building a strong body of evidence about the process of building sustainable practice in outdoor learning. The article is here.
The results from the project make interesting reading showing the benefits of using outdoor learning as a way of teaching in terms of everything from better behaviour to greater enjoyment of and engagement with lessons.
The project ended in 2016 and an overview of the project and its findings are presented here Transforming outdoor learning in schools: lessons from the Natural Connections project(PDF)
And the results of the evaluation are available here.
Now it's your turn:
The Outdoor Classroom Day website has resources to encourage people to get involved, lesson plans and guidance on best practice here.
If you're keen to get involved in outdoor, environmental education and forest schools or perhaps you need a refresher then have a look at the community engagement and environmental education courses currently advertised here.