Outdoor classrooms can not only provide much-needed space but also an exciting learning area for pupils and teachers alike. This change of scenery can inspire greater concentration and rejuvenate interest in a subject matter. Even the biggest of outdoors spaces will need to be equipped with some basics if they are to be used for outdoor classrooms.
Considerations for Outdoor Classrooms
When you first consider an outdoor classroom you will need to give some thought to whereabouts in the school it might go. Grass can be a great surface for outdoor classrooms in the summer but may not be as flexible all year round. Think about how you are going to use the area and then choose a suitable place for your activities.
To ensure everyone is comfortable enough to learn you may require some sort of outdoor seating. There are many options available for seating, more natural options include tree stumps or large boulders but if you want a robust solution then purchasing designated seating may be best. Curved benches are great for creating circular learning areas or a theatre-style area with a presentation space.
In addition to seating, an outdoor classroom may require children to have space for books or to make notes. Depending on the topics and kind of activities that you are planning, you will need to ensure that the children have the appropriate work benches. If you are looking for something simple then wooden shelves could be used for children plant / inspect / monitor / write up experiment results. Or if you wanted to be a little more formal you could install outdoor tables, the choices are wide but making sure they support the projects that you are planning is key.
Play Panels are a great way to offer specific learning; mazes, maths, phonics etc. and there are hundreds available for younger children. Older children may enjoy experiencing different learning environments, woodland trails, outdoor theatres, a performance stage or wildflower garden. The resources you can have can support learning in many areas; gardening equipment, scientific equipment, maths measuring equipment…
With all these new resources, you will need somewhere to store them. With inside space often at a premium, some secure outdoor storage is a great solution. Locker style secure storage is flexible and available in a range of shapes and sizes.
Protection From the Sun
Adding shade and shelter will extend the days that you can use your outdoor classroom area as well as protect your children and staff from UV rays and rain on wet days. School canopies come in many configurations – fabric shelter such as shade sails, umbrellas, tepees and star sails; and steel and polycarbonate canopies which can be installed in many shapes and sizes.
Grants Available to Support Outdoor Learning
These things all cost money, but there is a clear focus from Ofsted on improving outdoor learning options for children. As such, many grants are available to schools, from large capital grants to smaller grants like the Learning Through Landscapes – Local School Nature Grant. This is available to all infant, primary and secondary schools across England, Scotland and Wales and supports items such as growing kits, planters, outdoor cooking equipment, scientific equipment, measuring equipment. For summaries of more than 70 grants, you can download the School Grants Guide from A&S Landscape here.