Alfresco School Dining: A Summertime Privilege, or Essential to Pupils All Year Round?

Think back to your school days. Specifically, lunchtime. Where did you eat your lunch? I certainly remember my experience.

As young pupils, we had to eat our sandwiches in the airless dining room alongside those who opted for hot dinners. This was our only option whatever the weather; it was always overcrowded and when the sun was shining it was terribly stuffy. Having the choice to eat outside wasn’t an option then and for many students, it still isn’t now.

There are many proven benefits to alfresco dining as a part of the school day. As students spend the whole day in a classroom environment, it is imperative that they are given time to breathe at lunchtime. In spending this break outside, it not only promotes a relaxing atmosphere but can also decrease levels of hyperactivity in a student. If a student is forced to occupy their break inside, it can emulate the classroom environment and prevent them from taking a healthy amount of time to relax. Alfresco dining is also an extremely sociable activity, unrestricted by the dining hall environment pupils can interact with different year groups freely.

Many obvious health benefits are connected with spending time in the open air and it is no mystery that fresh air is good for you. A study by Cambridge University showed there was a correlation between the hours spent outdoors, and the decreased chances of a child being short-sighted in the future. Regular doses of daylight also provide multiple benefits to a child’s performance during the school day. A 1999 study by Pacific Gas showed that there was a high correlation between the level of daylight in the classroom and a pupil’s concentration. Alfresco dining is therefore not only a decision based upon a student’s enjoyment. It could also be an active decision that leads to healthier and happier pupils.

It is therefore evident that encouraging students to eat outside could be key to nurturing both a child’s wellbeing and their academic potential. Yet a school must also consider protecting their students from the unpredictable British weather. Choosing a canopy is both a cost-effective and adaptable option to offer shelter from both the rain and sunshine.

At A&S Landscape, there are many different options for covered dining areas to suit any need. Options include curved roof canopies or straight roof polycarbonate canopies, fabric shade sails and umbrella options. Our outdoor canopies are adaptable to the available space and there are further options such as installing side panels as an extra protection from extreme weather conditions.

Regardless of which option you choose, the benefits of creating a covered outdoor eating area are clear and there will be an apparent and quick improvement to a pupil’s lunchtime. It offers a year-round alternative to the dining room, meaning a pupil can still get well-needed fresh air, even if it is raining. As the canopy also offers shade during the intense summer months, it also encourages those seeking fresh air, but not sunburn. Whilst a student may not choose to go outside, a covered area will give them the freedom of choice, regardless of the weather.

You need not only use the structure as an extension to your dining room. It can be used for outdoor learning, or as a setting for outdoor summer events. Using the area to host a school BBQ, or as part of the sports day can promote community-based events, and enhance already established activities.

Alfresco dining is not only an enjoyable experience. It is a valuable break that encourages a child to socialise, rest their brain and prepare them for a further afternoon of learning.

In installing an outdoor canopy you can transform a summertime privilege into an all year round normality.

For inspiration take a look at previous projects here.