By Pete Crawford
Head of People and Wildlife
Today is International Outdoor Classroom Day.
Another of those “made-up” days, I hear you cry. Yes, but this is more than just a slogan. Over 2,500 schools in the UK have pledged to take their children outside. But isn’t it odd that we have to celebrate the opportunity for children to learn in the outdoors? Contact with Nature has seemingly become such a rare thing in the curriculum, and in many children’s lives in general, that it has to be promoted and made into an event.
Yet there is strong academic research, carried out by Natural England* that shows “learning in a natural environment” has huge benefits. This doesn’t just mean the teaching of ecology or gardening. Teaching across curriculum subjects – English, Maths, Geography, Science, Art, can all be delivered outdoors and support more formal learning back in the school building.
Not only that, but the research showed that learning in a natural environment had positive benefits for pupils. Over 90% of schools felt that it increased pupils’ enjoyment of lessons, social skills, engagement with learning, their health and wellbeing and their connection to nature.
- Teachers reported it improved their own teaching practice, professional development and job satisfaction.
- Ofsted found that it could help with pupil progression, and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
- A majority of schools attributed a direct improvement in pupil attainment on a programme of learning in the natural environment.
So I ask again, why do we need a special day for a beneficial way of teaching? Let’s celebrate the opportunity for everyone to take their classes into the school field, or to the park or the beach for the day.
But, parents, teachers, school governors, if your children are not involved in a weekly programme of learning in a natural environment, then perhaps you should be asking “Why isn’t there an Outdoor Classroom day every week?”
* Waite et al Natural Connections Demonstration report 2012-16. Natural England Commissioned Reports, No. 215