As schools adjust to the new normal brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, many educators are considering alternative learning environments to keep their students safe while being able to teach in a new way. One such option gaining popularity is the outdoor classroom. With fresh air, natural lighting, and space for social distancing, they offer a unique and potentially safer learning experience than traditional indoor classrooms. But is it the right fit for your school? Let’s explore the benefits and considerations of outdoor classrooms.
Benefits of Outdoor Classrooms:
- Improved concentration and focus – Studies have shown that exposure to nature can improve cognitive function and mental health. In an outdoor setting, students are more likely to feel relaxed and engaged in their learning, which leads to better retention and understanding of the coursework.
- Physical health – Outdoor classrooms provide numerous opportunities for physical activity. Students can explore, participate in hands-on learning activities, and enjoy fresh air while staying active and healthy. Additionally, outdoor classrooms can help reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, a crucial concern during the flu season.
- Stimulating learning environment – Nature is full of exciting wonders to examine and explore. Being outside provides opportunities for hands-on learning and fosters curiosity about the natural world. This creates a more dynamic learning environment for students and can even inspire a lifelong love of learning.
Considerations for Outdoor Classrooms:
- Weather – Outdoor classrooms may not be practical in areas with extreme temperatures or inclement weather. In areas where weather can be unpredictable, schools will need to consider whether they have an alternative space if outdoor sessions are not possible. Sunshades and trees can make the outdoor classroom usable year around.
- Infrastructure – It is essential to consider the type of infrastructure needed for an outdoor classroom, student seating and teacher station are the first steps, but there are many options to allow your outdoor classroom to be flexible.
- Safety and security – Outdoor classrooms may pose some unique safety challenges. The school should identify and evaluate the potential risks, including the possibility of wildlife encounters or other safety hazards, and should take steps to mitigate them.
In conclusion,they offer numerous advantages for students’ physical and mental health and provide an exciting and dynamic learning environment. With targeted planning, design, and considerations, outdoor classrooms have the potential to provide a fulfilling and enriching educational experience for students of all ages.