There are many benefits to outdoor learning, including personal and social development; creative development; communication, language and literacy; mathematical development; physical development; and knowledge and understanding of the world. Kirklees Environment Round Table have divided up the benefits of outdoor learning into Early Learning, Science, Maths and English. The benefits mentioned above refer to Early Learning.
The scientific benefits of learning outside include measuring how far we can hear; developing our senses by touching things that are smooth, rough, furry, slimy, soft and hard; forces and motion; evaporation where students can monitor the evaporation of puddles; measuring temperatures and weather patterns; habitats and monitoring things such as the amount of sunlight, water and temperatures needed to keep a plant alive.
In terms of mathematics Kirklee believes that skills like counting; shape, space and measurement; data recording; area of shapes; graphs; distances; angles; position and movement can all be developed.
And in terms of English reading, listening, writing, questioning, poetry and word choice all have the potential to be improved when learning in an outdoor environment.
The idea is that an outdoor environment stimulates the senses and gives people a lot to observe, consider and reflect upon. For young children who are only learning about things like touch, numbers and basic physics, being able to observe things like plant growth, water evaporation and distances can give meaning to classroom lessons. Learning outside gives a practical element to otherwise theoretical teachings.
Those looking to develop an outdoor learning plan should think first about their objectives, the goal they are hoping to achieve, they experience they will provide to achieve that goal, and the resources they have available to create that experience. Often schools will find that they already have many of the resources they require to stimulate and engage their students.
While a large portion of the time students spend learning outside will be dedicated to wandering around observing, touching and actively nurturing the living things around them, it is still important to have a covered area where teachers can give their lessons out of the sun and rain. A sheltered outdoor classroom also gives students a place to return and complete their work, a place where they can ask questions and discuss ideas with their peers.
An outdoor classroom doesn’t have to be elaborate; it might be as simple as a covering with sufficient seating. In return students have the opportunity to really expand their minds and reflect on the nature that exists right outside of their classroom window.