Children spend an average of 12.5 minutes outdoors per day, according to a study commissioned by the National Trust. That’s half the amount of time their parents spent outdoors when they were children.
The reasons why children don’t spend as much time outdoors are surprising.
While the prevalence of technology has changed the way children play, it’s not solely responsible for this downturn. Fear plays a huge role: parental fear for the safety of children around strangers, and traffic and health-related fears are a significant cause of children spending more time indoors.
But the problem is, too much time indoors isn’t good for children. They can’t burn off their energy. They don’t develop a relationship with nature, and they don’t reap the endless benefits of being outdoors. Many of which support academic learning.
If you were able to combine learning with spending time outdoors, you would create a win-win situation, one where both the students and teacher enjoy the learning experience. And where the children get access to the best environment for learning.
An environment that optimises the child’s ability to concentrate.
What are the benefits of outdoor learning?
Here are five great reasons why you should consider creating an outdoor learning environment for your school. These reasons focus more on academic performance. But there are plenty of health-related reasons why your students and staff would benefit from outdoor learning too.
1. Enhanced academic performance
Spend a short time researching, and you’ll discover several studies that all confirm that outdoor learning boosts academic performance. Studies like those from the American Institute Of Research frequently cite the following outcomes from their research:
- Raised test scores by up to 27%
- Higher than average esteem and problem-solving skills
- Enhanced ability to relate with peers and to resolve conflict
- Better attitude toward learning
- Improved behaviour in class and better attendance
- Advanced critical thinking skills
- Stronger resilience
- Reduced stress
Not one of the studies reported any negative impact of learning outdoors! Which suggests that having outdoor classrooms in your school will be incredibly beneficial to your students.
2. Connects students to nature
If we don’t spend enough time outdoors, the use of our senses and ability to concentrate diminishes. And our emotional and physical health declines. It’s a downward spiral that nobody wants to experience.
But if you’re a teacher and you’re trying to encourage your students to concentrate you’re onto a losing battle from the offset. Especially if the children in your class are those who only spend the average 12.5 minutes outdoors per day. Their ability to pay attention reduces significantly.
This whole sorry scenario reverses when you connect children to nature.
Even more so if you use nature as a medium to teach. It will encourage patience, resilience, and adaptability and will promote a deep empathy and relationship with nature. Which may lead to compassionate adults who grow up wanting to solve the environmental problems we face today, or at least who show respect to their environment.
3. Helps children develop a sense of belonging
If you can relate to nature, and if you learn to love it, it’s impossible to feel as though you don’t belong. If a child feels as though they belong, their confidence and esteem will soar, which has a positive impact on their learning. It’s the perfect gift you can give to any child.
4. Inspires and motivates the teachers
The fresh air has as many advantages for the teachers as it does for the children. Studies show that teachers feel a renewed sense of motivation toward their career in teaching when they spend more time in outdoor classrooms.
5. Activates the memory
When you incorporate the outdoors into your lessons, the student learns from a variety of media that isn’t available to them indoors. The sounds, scents, sensory connection to nature and the multitude of lessons that nature can bring can help the student to activate their attention and the ability to recall events.
What you teach your students outdoors tends to stick!
How Do I Create An Outdoor Classroom?
Outdoor learning canopies, also known as outdoor classroom canopies, are the best way to create an outdoor classroom, especially in UK weather. There are plenty of design options that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing.
The term ‘canopy’ can be deceiving though, especially because you can install some outdoor classroom canopies that are fully-fledged rooms. Rooms that you can heat for classes in all-seasons.
But the best types of outdoor learning canopies are those that have flexible side panels. Side panels that are either doors or shutters that open up to allow the outside in. An outdoor classroom canopy with flexible doors will enable students to take their studies outdoors on a nice day and stay in the warmth of the classroom on a colder day.
If you fill your outdoor classroom with lightweight, portable furniture, your students will be able to move outdoors as the weather permits easily. But if your budget allows, adding picnic desks around the outside with parasols or shade sails over them to protect from the sun will enhance the outdoor learning experiences you create.
What Types Of Outdoor Classroom Canopies Are Available?
You have two main choices for your classroom canopy:
1. Classroom canopies that can include side infills
These outdoor learning canopies can transform into a warm, well-lit room, perfect for all UK weather situations!
- Aluminium or steel framed canopies with polycarbonate roofs
- Timber canopies
- Tepee style canopies with steel or aluminium frames
2. Outdoor learning canopies without the option to include side infills
If you want to add some shade and are happy only to use these learning canopies in warmer weather, you’ll find plenty of choice amongst the following canopy types.
- Shade sails
If you’re wondering how to inspire your students and staff into optimising the learning experience an outdoor classroom is a must.
Outdoor learning canopies are the perfect way to create an outdoor classroom. And there are plenty of options to create the perfect size and specification to meet your school’s needs.