Think about the last time you saw a child grinning wildly, bursting with excitement. Chances are they were outside in the playground at break time, not sitting in class.
As a young teacher in the 1990s, that was my revelation. The experience inspired my lifelong passion to get children outdoors – learning, playing, exploring.
The practice of outdoor learning is not a new one, but in 2017 we have more evidence than ever before that shows the powerful impact it has on students and teachers. Government organisation Natural England recently published findings from its Natural Connections Demonstration Project — a four-year project working with 125 schools in the South West.
In the report, 94% of participants said that having lessons outdoors improves children’s health and wellbeing, and 92% said that it engages pupils with learning. An astonishing 79% went on to say that outdoor learning had a positive impact on their teaching practice.
How does teaching outside make you feel? It certainly made me a better teacher, and it was fun!
Play is critically important too, teaching children life skills such as resilience, teamwork, leadership and creativity. Children who play outdoors are healthier, more active and they quite simply have a deeper sense of self fulfilment.
And parents agree — 96% of parents surveyed last year by Unilever, said play enables children to become well-rounded adults, and 93% said that without opportunities to play, children’s learning would suffer. However, children’s freedom to play and explore as part of their everyday lives is diminishing by the year.
That’s one of the reasons school playtimes and outdoor lessons are so important in the lives of many children, and yet too often playtimes are reducing, and the number of schools regularly taking lessons outdoors is relatively small.
Outdoor Classroom Day is a campaign to celebrate learning and play outside the classroom. It is a movement that wants to inspire schools (and families) worldwide to make outdoor learning and play part of every day.
The campaign began in 2012 in London, when just a handful of schools got involved. The following year it was over 150. The movement now brings together thousands of schools, parents, and supportive organisations – charities, local government, and businesses. In 2016 the UK-based social enterprise, Project Dirt, took on the global leadership and, supported by Unilever’s ‘Dirt is Good’ brands, the campaign reached more than 50 countries and almost half a million children worldwide!
If you’re new to outdoor learning, why not use Outdoor Classroom Day to give it a go? Or if it’s part of your normal week, why not use the day to celebrate what you’re doing already and encourage other schools in your area to join in? Whatever you decide to do, get started on your Outdoor Classroom Day adventure on 18 May and be prepared to be amazed. You can hear from some of the many thousands of schools (and parents) that have joined in on the Get Inspired pages of our website. You can also download lots of free resources produced by global experts, and upload your own to share with the community too!