Picture the scene – it’s a baking hot day. There are toys and activities set up in the house and water and mud games in the garden, ready for when my toddler has eight cousins to play. Hours later, and the toys inside the house remain untouched and the garden has been filled with the noise, laughter and total mayhem that outdoor play can bring.
There’s no doubt that children vary in their inclinations, but when given the option, won’t most choose to be outside?
Getting out there
Outdoor learning can happen anywhere, from gardens to parks, rural settings to conurbations, historic houses and gardens to busy town centres – there are no limits to the possibilities. And the evidence suggests that children love it, learn from it and take the skills and creativity they develop into the classroom for further learning. And simply moving more throughout the course of the day has myriad benefits we could all use.
While many children have an instinctive love for being, and playing, outdoors, there’s no doubt that sharing outdoor experiences with others, especially adults who pass on skills and enthusiasms, adds tremendously to what children can get out of time spent together. Discussing their learning helps to develop critical thinking, enquiry and reflection. It can help to develop relationships, too.
Sources of help
If you’re interested in getting your pupils out and about much more in the coming academic year, there are plenty of organisations to help you achieve that. For example, organisations such as the Institute for Outdoor Learning, which supports individuals and organisations to use the outdoors and increase participation in learning outside, are convinced of the need to get children in the open air as much as possible. The Forest School Association also exists to promote the benefits of learning outside as does the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. The English Outdoor Council has summarised key findings from research and major studies into outdoor learning and activity/adventure programmes and they are nothing short of impressive. From boosting physical development and emotional wellbeing to improving behaviour and even influencing lifestyle choices, connecting with nature matters – there’s no doubt about it. It helps to inspire increased activity levels, boosts social effectiveness and communication skills and can have a positive impact on team working skills among many other benefits.
When watching children play, experiment, create and explore outside, it is clear how much most get from the experience. For many, it’s pure delight; something not often replicated when they are told to stay indoors. As a new term looms, I can’t be alone in hoping that children of all ages get to spend as much time beyond the classroom walls as possible. Autumn may be close, but that’s no reason to cut back on the fresh air for the young learners in our care. In fact, with the risks of the burning sun much diminished in the cooler months, now is precisely the time to think about just how much we can get out there and learn.