Remember how much fun you had as a child playing outside? That wonder and discovery of it all? With abundant access to fresh air, natural light, and countless options for exploration, outdoor spaces naturally engage children, and provide perfect learning environments for valuable skill development.
Why Take Learning Outside?
The most obvious benefit to learning outdoors is the chance to explore. Nature offers valuable lessons for children about the world around them, from the plants and animals that inhabit their surroundings to the ecosystems that support them. Student development can be stimulated through this organic hands-on learning, interacting with, and exploring nature, which encourages creative thinking. Our Learning Environment designers have even leveraged this inherently human connection to nature, designing classrooms to mirror the attributes of ecosystems to bring the benefits of nature back inside.
Action Brings Rewards
We all love playing outside, and there are many reasons why. Studies show physical activity is essential for physical, mental, and social health. While the opportunities for movement are obvious, taking learning outdoors not only encourages kids to stay active, it helps them burn off energy, improve coordination, build physical strength, and has even been shown to decrease the symptoms of ADHD. The more relaxed natural settings outside also lower stress levels in students and teachers, making the experience more positive for everyone, encouraging easy socialization and good play.
As Playworks founder Jill Vialet shares in her ONEder podcast, “There're so many reasons to believe that being playful is a solid hallmark of emotional intelligence. It’s an essential precursor to trust, building rapport and all these things that we know enable human collaboration to be much more effective.”
Confidence Connections and Community
Giving students the freedom to self-discover outdoors encourages creativity, the development of unique ideas and increased confidence. Experiential learning outside the classroom encourages them to think outside the box and hone critical decision making and problem-solving skills. And outdoor learning spaces can be designed to develop awareness of both natural and human communities, leading to a sense of place. Connection to place helps students develop stronger environmental attitudes and civic behaviors and creates the foundation for the next generation of engaged citizens who care for their natural and human communities.
Beyond the Student
Learning outdoors can also support improved school performance. Research has documented increased standardized test scores, enhanced attitude about school, improved in-school behavior, improved attendance and overall enhanced student achievement when students learn in and about nature. In addition, outdoor education effectively employs a greater range of children’s intelligences.
The connections fostered through outdoor learning go far beyond benefits to the student. Outdoor classrooms provide natural entry points for more families and community members to get involved with student learning. The relationships developed can lead to greater parental and community involvement in and support for the school, enhancing holistic wellbeing, student safety, and school resources.