Outdoor Play Structures
At IA Play we are focused on providing the best facilities for our schools that engage pupils and enrich their learning experiences. This article, written by our own qualified teacher, explores the potential benefits of outdoor classrooms making consideration for the new OFSTED framework. Studies have shown that pupils tend to have increased concentration levels as well as increased levels of motivation and inspiration when their learning is taken outside.
The opportunity to learn and play outdoors can also potentially give children who find it difficult to concentrate or engage inside an alternative option. Installing an outdoor classroom area is something that all schools should seriously consider, provided the significant educational benefits they offer to students and the part they play in facilitating positive learning experiences. Some of these benefits will be explored below.
- Increased pupil engagement
Studies show that pupils engage in their learning more when they are exposed to new learning methods or environments. As temperatures rise in the classroom, attention spans tend to fall with students more focused on getting a drink, taking off their jumper or telling the teacher its ‘too hot’. As SATS pass for years 2 and 6, its also a great way to add variety to their final weeks of term whilst also providing an enriching and engaging curriculum. We will talk more about curriculum content as this blog moves on…
- Enhanced STEM learning opportunities
STEM learning is fundamental for all students throughout their primary school experience, show why not make it more FUN? Taking your learning outdoors offers the opportunity to further pupils Scientific and Mathematical knowledge as well as enhance their exposure to technological and engineering examples. Why restrict your learning to the classroom when you can take it outdoors and explore your surroundings? Whether that be using a larger space to encourage independent learning, use your school and surroundings buildings to discuss architecture, put pieces of technology to use or use natural surroundings to explore key elements of the Science curriculum an outdoor classroom is sure to enhance your pupils learning potential.
- School reward systems
Research has shown that healthy competition in schools enhances overall behaviour trends and improves a school community. I have personally seen the benefits of this in my time in education, especially when linked to attendance. Why not run competitions as terms close and attendance dips such as the class with the highest attendance figures for the week get to use the outdoor classroom for an afternoon?
School councils may also use it as a meeting point, offering rewards for students who opt to engage in the wider school community. The new OFSTED framework looks heavily at student engagement in the wider school community – looking at what pupils enjoy specifically about their school. Why not have a new outdoor classroom to host OFSTED meetings with pupils this summer?
- Class topic learning
Schools are increasingly using their ‘topic’ learning to incorporate their local community and real-life issues into their students learning. Many schools can view the local community from their grounds. Visual and kinaesthetic learners would benefit greatly from an outdoor classroom environment where they can visually see what their teachers are talking about. With easy add-ons such as Chalkboards and Whiteboards your lessons can come to life in the outdoor classrooms. Mobile projectors can easily be taken out and as such, a practical classroom environment can be created without the restrictions of 4 walls! With classes becoming increasingly full and over capacity, an outdoor classroom is a perfect solution to overcrowded classrooms.
- Multi-Purpose use
With space an ever-decreasing commodity in schools, an outdoor classroom provides a perfect solution for schools looking to make multiple uses of one area. There is an ever-growing list of potential uses, but here are some for you to consider:
- Targeted intervention areas. Class teachers or teaching assistants many take small groups of pupils to the outdoor classrooms to perform an intervention. This take students to a new environment that may feel less formal than the classroom or a small side room meaning they can read freely whether that be as a small group or individually. This can help build confidence and bridge gaps in individuals learning.
- Social time. Pupils love to socialise with their friends in a calm and relaxed environment. This could be used in conjunction with the rewards mentioned earlier on. Students may get a designated time in the outdoor classroom area with their friends as a reward for positive behaviour or contributions to school.
- A base for forest school sessions. Often pupils must change their footwear in the classroom which provides logistical nightmares for cleaning and site staff. An outdoor classroom from Creative Play with a solid timber base would allow students a base for their session as well as a practical area to change footwear and return to school without taking the mess with them!
- A dry waiting area for parents and carers. Schools are always looking for ways to make home/school relationships better. An outdoor classroom would give parents or grandparents a dry, shaded waiting area when they are waiting for their children to come out of school. OFSTED always put out a parent questionnaire, what a great way to get some quick wins!
- Increased physical development, physical learning opportunities and physical activity
As your outdoor classroom will be obviously located outdoors, opportunities to engage in physical activity and physical learning are instantly enhanced. As students are close to the natural and open surroundings of the school site, they can be supervised in expanded learning from a centralised outdoor point. This could facilitate high quality OAA lessons as well as an area for hands-on lessons. This could include messy art projects, science experiments or loud musical lessons that can’t be conducted indoors. Whatever the learning focus, outdoor classrooms create a gathering place for children allowing pupils to explore the school grounds, and then meet at the outdoor classroom to share any findings.
- Extending existing learning spaces
Outdoor classrooms are an ideal solution for schools that need to expand their current classroom space and maximise the use of their space. As class sizes increase, with some schools becoming pushed to accommodate rising pupil numbers, outdoor classrooms provide the extra space needed without extensive construction work. Outdoor classrooms from IA Play Solution can be installed as fully enclosed environments with roofs and internal learning facilitators such as whiteboards and blackboards. This means that our outdoor classrooms can be used all year round by providing a sheltered area when it is wet and windy, and a shaded area for when it is hot and sunny, meaning that lessons can take place outside all year round!