Getting started

Through 20 years experience of supporting teachers and early years practitioners, we have developed an understanding of the barriers to outdoor learning and play.

Fortunately, we have also learned how they can be overcome. Sharing this learning through resources and training is a key part of our work. We have included a couple of membership resources to download (below) as a taster of what we can offer.

Poor design and lack of space

Easy access to outside spaces, adequate shelter and well designed and located outdoor seating can all enhance outdoor learning experiences. Where such facilities are not available, outdoor learning is undoubtedly more difficult, but, with creativity, it is possible.

Pupils can, for example, use clipboards and sit on PE mats if there are no seats and tables, but the advantage of outdoors really lies not in replicating an indoor classroom, but in its potential to enable active learning experiences. There is generally more space, noisy behaviour can be encouraged, making a mess is allowed and the relationships between children and adults often change.

The weather

There is no such thing as unsuitable weather – just unsuitable clothing! Overcoming this barrier is a matter of providing easy access to appropriate clothing and making sure outdoors includes shady and sheltered spaces. For example, in an early years setting wishing to offer free flow between indoors and outdoors, create a covered transition zone. In this area, children would have easy access to coats and wellington boots, enabling them to be responsible for changing their clothing. In such free flow environments, it is interesting to observe that children like to be outdoors, whether the sun is shining or not.

Our learning resources offer stimulating ideas to take advantage of the changing seasons to offer a range of developmental and learning experiences.

Health and safety concerns

Although it is important that children and young people are not exposed to unnecessary risks, allowing them to take risks in a managed environment is critical to their development. Developing the skills to assess a situation, identify a risk and act upon it is an essential part of growing up.

The creation of a risk / benefit policy supports schools and settings in making make clear statements about the benefits of risk to children and shows that issues have been thought about and deemed appropriate. If this document is developed in partnership the wider school community, and agreement sought, it allows for absolute transparency and concerns to be raised at the earliest opportunity. It can also be circulated to parents to help them realise the benefits of risky play.

Behaviour and management concerns

Managing behaviour in the outdoor classroom is fundamentally no different to indoors, but certain aspects may need a little more consideration. The following checklist serves is further developed through our training and resources:

  • Plan for success. Make the activities manageable, relevant and fun.
  • Negotiate roles based on class rules and school policy.
  • Gather equipment well in advance and decide on the best way to take it outside.
  • Share objectives, outcomes, boundaries and expectations.
  • Ensure smooth, calm transitions from indoors to outdoors
  • Establish a gathering point.
  • Agree a signal for calling the children back.
  • Keep tasks focused and fun.
  • Gather children regularly to praise and re-establish tasks and expectations.
  • Reflect on the session, share success and consider ways forward.

Lack of time

The most effective way of using your time to teach outside is to have easy access to the outdoors and flexible and reusable equipment in a convenient location. When inside, teachers and practitioners have numerous resources to hand, making teaching manageable and enabling them to respond effectively to the needs of the class. If the same thought process is given to all learning environments, then the level of preparation every time the teacher/practitioner wants to use the outdoors is dramatically reduced.

Lack of training and experience

Currently only a very small percentage of time is dedicated to learning outside the classroom within initial teacher training, and unless a school is already dedicated to teaching outdoors then the prospect can be quite daunting. Consider running an INSET or twilight session so that staff can learn together and support each other afterwards.

LTL members can download a wide range of ideas for delivering the curriculum. Alternatively click here to find more in our resource database.

Learning through Landscapes

Ground Floor
F Block
Clarendon House
Monarch Way
Winchester SO22 5PW

01962 846258