There is a lot of research which highlights the benefits of spending time outdoors; reducing heart rate, blood pressure, lowering stress hormones and easing muscle tension. It can even boost your mood. Improvements in attention, memory and concentration have also been shown.
How then does this impact on children in school? Well, being indoors for most of the day is linked to increased anxiety and depression. Couple this with the appeal of computer games and social media at home and you can see how important it is to offer children as many opportunities to be outdoors during the school day as possible.
Spending time outdoors boosts vitamin D levels (an important hormone which helps to protect against a range of diseases such as osteoporosis, depression, heart attacks and stroke). It is shown in studies that many of us do not get enough of this important vitamin, so more time outside is key to help address this deficiency.
With the longest break in the school day being the lunch break, a great solution is alfresco dining. More and more schools are enhancing their outdoor areas, creating outdoor dining spaces, with canopies, shade sails, umbrellas and even enclosed outdoor dining rooms. With growing pupil numbers, this is a solution to the increased pressure that existing dining rooms come under as schools grow.
Children love being outdoors and outdoor dining is very popular amongst pupils, especially as it can bring so many health and well-being benefits.
A project which did just this is the outdoor dining area at Brownhills School. What was once a bleak space has now been transformed in to a delightful dining area which offers shade in the hot months and shelter in the wet months.
For information on outdoor dining canopies for schools click here.