Transforming school yards into dynamic outdoor classrooms
Learning outside the classroom is widely recognised as a successful way of engaging young people. The benefits of moving classes beyond four walls and overhauling the traditional lesson structure have been the subject of much scrutiny, particularly following the Covid-19 outbreak. Research indicates that children of all ages and abilities gain so much more than knowledge through real world experiences. Skills such as communication and language, teamwork, resilience and problem solving are all put to the test in outdoor classroom environments. Being outdoors is also part of a healthy lifestyle, inspiring physical activity and boosting mental health.
Taking Learning Outdoors
Maximising the potential of the outdoors is at the heart of creating positive open-air learning experiences. It could be that the installation of a cycle shelter offering secure cycle parking is needed to encourage more families to save on the cost of fuel and get on their bikes and scooters for the school-run. As well as motivating students to experience the health benefits of active travel, it leads to discussions on sustainable transport options and lessons around road safety and climate change. Green travel also exposes young people to new surroundings, opening their eyes to the activity taking place in their community. The relationship between different areas of the curriculum can be explored in many ways by developing outdoor learning environments. Skills and abilities which are not always visible in a traditional classroom are encouraged in outdoor classrooms as young people connect to subjects in different ways. Whether in a natural or a built environment, schools can create safe, inspirational learning zones outside the education building through the use of canopies and shades. Creative outdoor classrooms can range from fabric canopy structures, keeping students protected from UV rays as well as unexpected downpours, to timber gazebos or polycarbonate shelters spanning courtyards.
At Broxap Street Furniture, through our playground division Hand Made Places, we also believe play supports effective learning. From Early Years Foundation Stage right through Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and beyond, we design and build playground equipment for schools, communities, tourist attractions, shopping centres and holiday parks. Every piece is created to maximize the play value, offering new challenges for children every time they visit and varied opportunities to grow and develop. Imaginative play, sensory play and physical play all play a part in nurturing little ones, helping them to build social skills, explore risk taking and develop critical thinking abilities. Moving lessons outdoors but using the same indoor format does not necessarily fully represent the concept of learning outside the classroom. It stands to reason then that sending children out into the yard to play doesn’t always maximise the opportunities afforded by making use of school grounds. With the right school playground, unstructured play time is always an opportunity to learn as well as build friendships and fantastic memories.
Under the Government’s PE and Sport Premium funding for primary schools, the grant must be used to develop and build capacity into the school’s physical activity offering. In addition to supporting PE lessons, improvements must also encourage active play during break and lunchtimes. Sunshine Gym, our outdoor gym division, has supported hundreds of schools to transform their traditional school yards into exciting fitness zones complete with safety surfacing and playground markings. The investments embed physical activity into the school day, providing targeted activities and the chance for different peer groups to work out together. An outdoor gym also creates the opportunity for schools to open up the facilities to the wider community as well as form out-of-school and holiday clubs.
Generating Learning Opportunities
An outdoor space can be transformed into a venue of opportunity with just a few simple additions, whether it be inclusive play or gym equipment or a shelter or canopy to accommodate learning time. While opening the door to an outdoor space brings benefits to students such as social time and vitamin D exposure, without direction it does not necessarily make a playground or outdoor classroom. The best learning environments offer a variety of infrastructure and equipment to send children on an unforgettable journey of learning and adventure. How to make best use of the space your school has - big or small - is something our advisers can help schools and educational centres with. Get in touch with our teams today to discuss your playground, outdoor gym or outdoor classroom plans.