Benefits of an Outdoor Classroom and Outdoor Learning

An outdoor classroom can benefit a child’s overall development and enhance their learning and motivation in many ways. Let’s break it down and look at the benefits..

This article is a Guest Post written by James from SmileTutor.sg. James is passionate about the education of young children and is dedicated to providing valuable insights and tips to parents and students on the importance of education.

Introduction

Many of us know that staying inside all day, or for many days in a row can affect our overall health and well-being in negative ways, and there are many dangers to allowing children too much Screen Time, but what is the science behind the benefits of outdoor playing and learning, and can it improve your everyday functioning along with physical, mental, and cognitive growth?

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Exploring the world outside your home, workplace, or classroom1 can be an enriching experience and help you connect with nature in many ways. It can be beneficial to both adults and children, providing sun safe measures are in place, and it has proven to create a positive change in lifestyles regarding productivity, homework, and functioning in society.

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There are psychological and physiological benefits to outdoor playing, and in this article, we will unpack the numerous benefits of outdoor learning and why you should consider outdoor classrooms from time to time.

kids outside, outdoor classroom
Engaging in outdoor activities will substantially increase the production of serotonin in your brain.

Enhances general health

A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with many health-related issues. This is why experts suggest getting outside, getting active getting amongst nature to actively prevent health complications. Moving around and engaging in outdoor activities is beneficial and recommended for all, including growing children, teens, adults and the elderly.

People who engage in more outdoor activities, especially children and school students, are known to be healthier and less likely to experience lifestyle diseases such as obesity and mental health issues.

According to the Australian curriculum2:

“Outdoor learning can be instrumental in:

  • the teaching and learning of self-reliance, interdependence and leadership
  • the development of an adventurous spirit
  • managing personal risks
  • experiencing safe journeys in nature
  • learning the value of lifelong outdoor recreation for enjoyment, health and wellbeing
  • understanding nature through direct experience; and the development of deeper human–nature relationships.”

Nature Play QLD also states:

“Outdoor learning supports increased interest in learning which in turn achieves greater learning through improved engagement.”

natureplayqld.org.au/blog/benefits-of-outdoor-learning3

Motivation

It’s not easy to derive motivation from spending long periods indoors and a lack of engagement with nature and the outdoor environment. Children can further develop their physical, social and cognitive skills by being active both indoors and outdoors, but when you take your activities outside, it is more likely you will be more motivated to explore, discover and engage in other physical activities, which will help you take care of your physical well-being while keeping your mental health intact.

Not only do outdoor activities encourage children to engage with the natural world around them, but when teachers take children outdoors for an outdoor classroom day, it can encourage and motivate children on a different level – inspiring discussion and engagement on various topics, without the predictable 4 walls of the classroom.

When we think about outdoor learning, we can utilize outdoor space as simply the venue – the space in which we hold the lesson, rather than inside the classroom, or we can utilize the outdoor space as the content for the lesson – for example to teach maths or science concepts related to nature, buildings or structures we find outside.

“Much research has been done to evaluate the effects of outdoor learning on academic achievement. The results strongly suggest that good indoor learning coupled with good outdoor instruction increases student scores on many standardized achievement tests. So, going outside doesn’t take time away from lessons addressing standardized testing concepts; utilizing the outdoors for instruction can actually better prepare students for testing.”

Herbert Broda – educationworld.com4
kids playing, outdoor learning
People who engage in more outdoor activities, especially children and school students, are known to be healthier and less likely to experience lifestyle diseases such as obesity and mental health issues.

Reduced stress levels

Serotonin plays a vital role in keeping you content, happier, and less susceptible to depression and other mental health issues. Engaging in outdoor activities will substantially increase the production of serotonin in your brain.

Similarly, there are some outdoor activities that will also release dopamine, a chemical that is stimulated by the act of repetitive yet pleasurable action. When children are encouraged to engage in outdoor play, sport, and other outdoor activities such as gardening, it can significantly reduce stress and anxiety and create feelings of wellness, motivation and general well-being.

“Research has shown that there are many benefits of outdoor active play when it comes to mental health. Fresh air is one of the best ways to reduce the hormones commonly associated with the feelings of anxiety. Outdoor play replaces this hormone with beneficial ones, such as serotonin and oxytocin, which help children feel calmer and happier. Also, spending time outdoors in nature reduces our kids’ response to stress and allows them to recover from stressful situations more quickly.”

ecohappinessproject.com/playing-outside5

It helps to develop valuable skills.

Playing outdoors can help to develop important skills such as:

There are a multitude of learning opportunities when considering the outdoor environment as an actual learning space. Whether children get involved with outdoor activities willingly with their peers during free play time, or whether they’re encouraged to participate as a class or even as a whole school, the learning outcomes and developmental benefits cannot be denied.

There is a website called OutdoorClassroomDay.com6 and they are holding two official Outdoor classroom days on some upcoming dates in May and November. Outdoor classroom day really has become a global movement and so if you’re interested in putting your school on the Outdoor classroom day map, you can click HERE6 to check out how to get involved. Simply register, send out an Outdoor classroom day newsletter to your families, plan some fun activities and get those kids outside! (Don’t forget the hats and sunscreen of course).

school kids, outdoor classroom
When teachers take children outdoors for an outdoor classroom day, it can encourage and motivate children on a different level – inspiring discussion and engagement on various topics, without the predictable 4 walls of the classroom.

Appreciation of the environment

Interacting with nature can change your perception of the world. It can give you a chance for a more positive outlook on the world around you, and helps to put problems and worries into perspective.

Engaging with a natural environment helps to teach us:

There are many lessons that can come from and be inspired from our natural environment and this can be fully explored with the more time we spend outdoors.

kids running, learning outside
Engaging in outdoor activities improves overall health and well-being for people of all ages, in a variety of ways.

Summary

Engaging in outdoor activities improves overall health and well-being for people of all ages, in a variety of ways.

Next time you ask about your child’s day, consider asking them about what they did outside and if they did any learning while outside among nature. You might be surprised with what they tell you!

If you’re an educator and you’re interested in becoming a part of the Outdoor Classroom day community, you can visit their website HERE6, and also get ideas and resources there for outdoor learning too.

What are your thoughts on outdoor learning and outdoor classrooms?

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Let me know in the comments!

Reference List:

  1. https://smiletutor.sg/
  2. ‘Outdoor learning’, Australian Curriculum, Accessed online at https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/resources/curriculum-connections/portfolios/outdoor-learning/ on April 17, 2023.
  3. Benefits of outdoor learning, Nature Play QLD. Accessed online at https://natureplayqld.org.au/blog/benefits-of-outdoor-learning#:~:text=Outdoor%20learning%20has%20positive%20impacts,activates%20thinking%20outside%20the%20box on April 17, 2023.
  4. ‘Outdoor Learning Expert: Enhance Student Motivation’, Sarah W. Caron, Education World. Accessed online at https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/expert_interviews/outdoor-learning.shtml on April 17, 2023.
  5. ‘Why Playing Outside Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety’, Sandi Schwartz, EcoHappiness Project. Published: Oct 17, 2020. Accessed online at https://ecohappinessproject.com/playing-outside/#:~:text=Outdoor%20play%20replaces%20this%20hormone,from%20stressful%20situations%20more%20quickly on April 17, 2023.
  6. https://outdoorclassroomday.com/

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