Whether you are developing an outdoor classroom to serve more as a natural playground, science center or to teach farm-to-table lessons, your new space will provide numerous benefits for students of all ages.
Learning Benefits of Using Outdoor Classrooms
Outdoor Classrooms Provide the Perfect Setting for All Subjects
Most people will tell you that outdoor classrooms work well for teaching science lessons. And, they are right! But, outdoor classrooms are also hugely beneficial when teaching math, reading, social studies, and art. Check out our “Using Outdoor Classrooms to Meet Educational Standards” document.
Unstructured Play Outdoors Promotes Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills
When children play outside in an unstructured setting are free to create new games, engage in dramatic play or explore freely. Because there are no pre-established rule to these activities, children often use creativity and problem-solving skills to create them. The regular use of creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in an unstructured outside setting means that children are more likely to have these skills in the classroom and future careers.
Better Tests Scores
Children who are taught in an outdoor setting – like an outdoor classroom – score higher on standardized test scores that children taught in a traditional classroom. Why? These students are developing the problem-solving and critical thinking skills often overlooked in traditional classrooms.
Higher Grade Point Averages
Again, like standardized test scores, children who go outside to learn often have higher grade point averages than their traditionally taught peers.
Decreased Behavior Problems
Anecdotal evidence has shown time and again that children who are engaged in learning in an outdoor setting are less likely to exhibit behavior problems.
Reduced Symptoms of ADHD
While the symptoms for ADD and ADHD vary widely, they can include hard time paying attention, not listening, easily distracted, in constant motion or unable to stay seated, acts without thinking and interrupts others. All children – regardless of if they have ADD or ADHD have reduced symptoms when they are engaged in outside learning.
Health Benefits to Spending Time Outside (in an outdoor classroom or not!)
Reduced Blood Pressure
Spending just 20 minutes outside can help to lower your blood pressure. And, you don’t need to be running or jumping rope to gain these benefits; simply sitting outside will work. Try having free reading time with your students outside or heading outside to work on your math lessons.
Spending just 30 minutes a day outside will help you (and your children) sleep better at night. And, the benefits of sleep are huge – increased cognitive function, reduced occurrence of heart disease and diabetes, and better mood.
Children who play outside play harder and play longer. All this extra movement and play equates to burning more calories. And, in turn, this leads to reduced occurrence of obesity.
Cortisol is the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol in your blood can lead to reduced immune capacity, increased blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, and high cholesterol levels. Spending time in nature significantly reduces your stress and cortisol levels.
You are probably aware that your body needs calcium to build strong bones. But, for your body to absorb this calcium, it needs vitamin D. And, while we can get some vitamin D from foods, most of our vitamin D comes from the sun. Spending time in nature allows your body to get enough vitamin D. Plus along, with vitamin D and calcium, your bones need physical activity to build strong bones – people who play outside play harder and play longer.
Increased Immune Function
When you are born, you have very little immune function. You have to build your immune system; the only way to do this is to be exposed to germs. And, while we don’t want to be exposed to flu or cold viruses, we do need to be exposed to germs that will help build (and maintain) our immune system. Spending time outside playing in nature, gardening and exploring help expose us to germ that will build our immunity, but likely won’t make us sick.