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When teaching is a breath of fresh air

A national education charity is calling on schools around the country to offer al fresco learning when Outdoor Classroom Day returns this Thursday

Posted by Julian Owen | October 30, 2018 | Health & wellbeing

Outdoor Classroom Day is returning this November, with schools across the UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) once again challenged to take lessons outdoors and prioritise playtime. Organisers hope to better the record 2,612 schools and nearly 350,000 children who took part in May's event. 

The international initiative - led in the UK and ROI by national school grounds and education charity, Learning through Landscapes, and globally by Project Dirt - acts as a catalyst to inspire spending more time outdoors on a daily basis, both at school and at home. Its long-term aims include for children to have access to 90 minutes of playtime at school every day.  

Carley Sefton, CEO of Learning through Landscapes, said: “It’s proven that outdoor learning and play increases social skills, imagination, engagement with learning, concentration and behaviour. We know that 90% of teachers who got involved in 2017 said that children were more engaged in their learning and 72% said that they were better able to concentrate after learning outdoors. As mental health challenges rise and pressures on children and young people increase, it becomes more and more vital that we harness these easy-to-achieve benefits. 

“Between our 2017 campaign and May 2018, one fifth of teachers in the UK and ROI told us they had increased time for outdoor play since taking part in the campaign, with two fifths increasing outdoor learning time. We know the initiative has the power to change pupils’ school lives. 

“We are excited about our November day as it reinforces our core belief that 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.”

Participants may care to take inspiration from Malvern College’s newest international campus (above), which in September became the first British school in China to teach all lessons outdoors for one day a week. The move to integrate the Forest School ethos into the primary curriculum came in response to growing demand from Chinese parents for alternatives to an exam-driven system.

Antony Clark, Headmaster of Malvern College, said: “‘We are meeting a need for a more holistic style of education from parents, who want their children to experience something other than the exam-focused Chinese education system.” 

November’s Outdoor Classroom Day campaign will centre on the benefit of risky play and learning in school grounds and outdoor spaces, focussing on the impact an individual’s actions can have on our environment. 

Cath Prisk, Global Partnerships Director at Project Dirt, said: “We wanted to use this Outdoor Classroom Day to show that risky learning and play is a crucial part of growing up. Dirty knees and scratched elbows are not something children should fear, they should stand as a foundation to teach them about their strengths and limitations. 

“Courageous play not only enables children to learn about challenging situations – and how to rise to them – but also how to be more aware of others. 

“We also believe that it can help children understand how their actions can decrease or increase risk to the environment; a crucial learning tool to bring into young people’s lives. We want to use this as an opportunity to connect children to the environment and encourage them to nurture the nature around them.”  

Although some schools are on half term on 1 November, the campaign still invites them to register and simply go outdoors on a day that suits them. Parents and supporters can also sign up to show their support and get more information here: www.outdoorclassroomday.org.uk

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