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How To Create The Perfect Outdoor Learning Environment

What is outdoor learning?

Outdoor learning is a form of education delivered outside the classroom that emphasises curiosity, exploration, and practical learning.

Learning outside teaches children less conventionally and more engagingly, allowing them to place greater value on their place in the world as a part of a greater ecosystem.

In recent years, Australian schools have increasingly recognised the importance of outdoor education for student health, mental well-being, and learning outcomes.

When you take learning out of the school classroom and into natural environments, children’s minds are free to explore, and you often achieve something interesting no matter what subject you are teaching.

This freedom and allowance for thought also encourage a mindset that is ready to absorb information.

It doesn’t need to occur deep in the wilderness; even conducting lessons in the school COLA or on the oval allows a more creative environment where young minds are sparked and motivated.

How to create outdoor learning spaces

Creating a high-quality onsite outdoor learning space is crucial to helping incorporate outdoor learning activities into the regular curriculum rather than just on one-off school trips.

An outdoor learning environment will need a shade structure to protect pupils from the sun and allow outdoor learning in the rain.

The key considerations required when creating the perfect outdoor learning environment are as follows:

  • Carefully consider how to best make use of the available space.
  • Involve decision-makers early on.
  • Establish a budget and stick to it.
  • Most importantly, do what’s best for the learners.

A specialised shade solution company should be involved from the get-go to advise you on structures with the best longevity, weather protection, versatility, and safety. 

We’ve designed our outdoor school shade structures to be specifically designed and engineered to fit your school and the particular needs of the students. Every school is different, and we accommodate that.

Four benefits of outdoor learning

1. Better academic performance

There has been a lot of research surrounding the benefits that outdoor learning can bring to academic performance.

A study entitled ‘Environmental Education: Improving Student Achievement‘ from 2003 compared standardised testing results among pairs of demographically equivalent schools that did and did not implement environmental education programs. It found that the students from schools that did participate in outdoor learning activities maintained improved test scores over the five years that the study ran for.

2. More environmentally aware

Engaging with the natural world is a fantastic way to teach children about ecosystems and all of the incredible wonders of nature.

Interacting with plants and insects and seeing critters in the wild is exciting for kids and serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving ecosystems.

A child actively going into natural environments will care a lot more about it than one who has yet to be exposed to the beauty of nature.

Getting kids excited about the environment early on is a step towards a better world where future generations will care enough to protect what we have left.

3. Improved mental well-being

Time and time again, studies have shown an association between improved mental health and spending time outdoors.

Outdoor learning offers students numerous mental health benefits by connecting them with nature and promoting physical activity.

Exposure to natural environments has been shown to reduce stress, elevate mood, and foster a sense of calmness.

Engaging in activities outdoors stimulates curiosity, creativity, and motivation – while the diverse sensory experiences improve focus and attention.

The collaborative learning environment and active play born in these settings cultivate social skills and communication, also contributing to a positive sense of self and improved mental health among students.

4. Increased motivation and engagement

Practically engaging in learning activities, they can see and interact instead of simply listening or reading. This allows students to concentrate longer and generates genuine interest much more quickly than in a traditional classroom.

Making learning fun in the outdoor environment has endless benefits for both students and teachers.

Outdoor learning activities

Here are five fun outdoor learning activities that any school can employ without using too many resources:

  • Outdoor Classroom: Regular lessons outside the traditional classroom improve learning by engaging multiple senses. It makes abstract concepts more tangible and relevant. For instance, studying history at a historical site or practising mathematics using natural elements can deepen a student’s understanding of the subject.
  • Science Experiments Using the Environment: Conducting science experiments outdoors allows students to observe phenomena in their natural habitat. This hands-on experience encourages curiosity and critical thinking as students explore the ecosystem.
  • Outdoor Art Projects: Creating art in an outdoor setting provides inspiration from nature and encourages creativity. Students can use natural materials, such as leaves and twigs, fostering a deeper appreciation for the environment while expressing themselves artistically.
  • Wildlife Watching: Observing wildlife in its natural habitat encourages curiosity and a deeper understanding of ecosystems. It helps students develop observation skills and an appreciation for biodiversity, fostering a sense of environmental responsibility.
  • Mindfulness: Practising mindfulness outdoors involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Activities like guided nature walks, deep breathing exercises, or sitting quietly can positively affect pupils’ mental well-being.

The challenges of outdoor learning

Along with its benefits, learning outdoors can challenge educators and principals, particularly in student safety concerns. Outside, children are exposed to all the elements: wind, rain, sun, you name it.

The sun is the primary concern here. Especially in the Australian heat, harmful UV rays can cause sun damage after just a few minutes of exposure. Additionally, being out in the sun on hot days can put students and staff at risk of heatstroke. As far as rain goes, outdoor education can’t go on in rainy conditions.

That’s why it’s worth considering investing in an outdoor shade structure for your school so that everyone is safe from sun damage and outdoor learning can carry on safely all year round.

Learn more about our outdoor learning areas

If you’re interested in learning more about shade solutions for outdoor learning environments, contact us to discuss the many options available to your school. We’ve got you covered with high-quality and professionally installed COLAs, shade sails, and so much more, whatever your outside learning desires.

Don’t wait any longer. Look at our Greenline outdoor learning spaces today and choose a shade solution to benefit your students’ learning outcomes, well-being, and school spirit!


Frequently asked questions

What is meant by outdoor learning?

Outdoor learning refers to delivering lessons and experiences to students outside or in natural environments, often including exploration, activities, and physical education.

How do you develop outdoor learning?

You can develop outdoor learning experiences in your class by incorporating outdoor learning activities into your routine while still fulfilling the Australian curriculum requirements. Plan a once-a-week time dedicated to outdoor learning, where your students can explore knowledge from the classroom in the real world.

What is an example of outdoor learning?

An example of outdoor learning is surveying the botanical vegetation surrounding the school for a scientific report. Students can better understand their local environment and scientific methodologies by collecting their own data through simple sampling methods.

How effective is outdoor learning?

Outdoor learning effectively increases student motivation, morale, and learning outcomes by engaging multiple senses and allowing active participation.