Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant campaign: Outdoor Classroom Day 2018
Carley Sefton, CEO of Learning through Landscapes, explains why she wants schools to swap their desks for the outdoors on Thursday 1 November writes
When you think of your most cherished memories when you were younger, what comes to mind?
For me, it’s being outdoors – exploring new places, having adventures and connecting with nature. And that’s why I’m a huge advocate for the global initiative Outdoor Classroom Day, for which Learning through Landscapes is leading delivery across the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI). That means we’re dedicated to ensuring that, even if it’s just a first step, the nation gets outside and prioritises outdoor learning and play.
Following a record 2,612 schools and nearly 350,000 children taking part across the UK and ROI in May 2018, we’ve set our sights even higher this time around. So now we’re calling on schools, teachers and parents to sign up and help get 1 million children outdoors on 1 November.
We all know that spending regular time outdoors brings abundant benefits. It’s critical not only to the health and wellbeing of young people, but also to their cognitive development. It’s been shown that outdoor learning and play increases social skills, imagination, engagement with learning, concentration and behaviour. Ninety percent of teachers who got involved in 2017 said that children were more engaged in their learning; and 72% said that their classes were better able to concentrate after learning outdoors. As mental health challenges rise and pressures on young people increase, it becomes more and more vital that we harness these daily easy-to-achieve benefits.
But it isn’t just pupils who take value from the campaign. Teacher wellbeing is at the heart of Outdoor Classroom Day too. A survey by the TES and NEU showed that almost three quarters of teachers said that the new KS2 test regime was detrimental to teachers’ mental health. We need to give teachers the space and environment to unwind and thrive.
We also believe that the initiative sparks an opportunity to do something bold and different, reimagining what it means to ’teach and learn’ when pupils are taken away from the confines of a classroom. Everything from science to poetry, music to quiet reading can be transformed simply by getting outside, helping pupils see these lessons from a new perspective.
Everything from science to poetry, music to quiet reading can be transformed simply by getting outside
Bringing the classroom outdoors also improves young people’s relationship with the environment, showing them the many different ways nature can boost their happiness and motivation. It’s a crucial part of the campaign; we need to trust that the future of our planet is in safe hands. What better way to do this than by helping young people to gain a tangible connection to it and building habits that can last a lifetime?
*What about half term?
We know that some schools are on half term on 1 November, but we invite them still to register, and then celebrate the power of getting outdoors on a day that suits them. We also think this is a brilliant chance to encourage parents to get outdoors during the school break with their children; why not set your pupils the challenge of doing something adventurous outdoors with the family on their time off?
And for those unsure about getting outside in the brisk autumn weather, November’s day reinforces our core belief: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing! We believe that children should be outdoors all year round as it is highly beneficial to their health and wellbeing.
Get involved and join the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today by signing up at: www.outdoorclassroomday.org.uk
Read on the SSAT blog: Active form time offers healthy variety