How outdoor classrooms can be used as a library resource
Simon Fearnehough from the Hideout House Company explains the educational functions of outdoor classrooms
We receive so many enquiries from schools who are looking for an outdoor classroom to be used as a library.
These schools typically don’t have enough space in the main school building for such a facility so they are obliged to look outdoors for a solution.
But of course you cannot just supply a bog standard open-sided gazebo style outdoor classroom building as it has be fully enclosed and waterproof to protect the books…and the children too for that matter!
Our company’s outdoor classroom libraries are available in all shapes and sizes so there is quite a wide choice to choose from but this is usually determined by such factors as to how many children need to be using the building at any one given time, how much room needs to be given to the books and book storage units and whether there needs to be any reading tables and chairs available.
The most popular size certainly seems to be octagonal as the seven internal walls (excluding entrance door) can easily be divided into different book sections with enough space in the middle to dedicate to desks and chairs. But there are also square and rectangular options too which feature options such as bi-fold doors and atrium roof lights to let in a lot of natural light from above.
These buildings can also be insulated too (and double glazed with toughened glass) if a school wishes to heat and light the building so that the facility can easily be used very comfortably all year round. Floor options allow for an oak engineered laminate floor, decking or exterior grade carpet.
We have also found that quite a few schools want something that is a bit different and “quirky” which will ultimately inspire children to want to go there and study. A school recently approached us saying that it had to be something which you might see on a Harry Potter set! As a result of this, there are two products which fit this bill – namely the Hideout House Outdoor Classroom pod with its Hobbit style round circular door or the Hideout House outdoor classroom with its high pitched roof.
Outdoor classrooms used as libraries need to last a long time and require relatively low ongoing maintenance so our buildings are manufactured entirely out of cedar with an attractive cedar shingle tile roof. The advantages of using cedar are numerous for a school – namely it doesn’t rot, it has the most natural insulating properties of all timbers, it requires very little maintenance and will last a lot longer than traditionally used timbers such as Scandinavian red wood pine.
With schools budgets as they are, it is sometimes quite difficult for schools to find the necessary funds to pay for these type of outdoor classrooms. School PTAs and their valuable fundraising activities always help of course but academies can also lease these buildings over a typical period of 3-5 years. The advantage of this funding system is that the school can benefit from the building straightaway but spread the payments over a longer period of time and across annual budgets.
There are also some excellent community grants which will support these outdoor libraries such as the National Lottery’s Awards for All scheme and Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative. In addition, there is a grant from the Foyle Foundation which will donate funds towards the books and library materials.