The setting for an Outdoor Classroom is a crucial consideration

Make a ‘journey’ to your new outdoor classroom – The setting can be motivational too!

At The Learning Escape we know how the siting and landscape associated with new classrooms can have a significant impact on children and staff.  We have all heard how many children recognise fast food logos but cannot identify common living plants or animals and  82% of teenagers are more likely to associate 'blackberry’ with a phone rather than a fruit, according to a YouGov poll.

Setting the Learning Escape into the landscape
The setting, the route to the new building and the learning environment around it is just as important as the internal environment and can inspire learning, especially so in tight urban settings.  For this reason we have teamed up with Felicity Robinson, Landscapes Naturally, who has over 20yrs experience of supporting and designing outdoor learning and play. www.landscapesnaturally.co.uk. There are few landscape architects who combine such a strong understanding of education, experience of teaching  and the particular issues in schools, with professional practice of landscape design in schools.

Problem Solving
All school grounds and building projects can be improved following a thorough briefing process and an experienced overview of the site, its problems, opportunities and school aspirations. Even the tightest urban sites, where it may not be thought that there are any/many options, can benefit from a site assessment before selecting the location of new classrooms. The dynamics of play can be positively or negatively affected, for example, so an experienced outside eye can see opportunities that school staff, familiar with the site, can easily miss. And, if you already have your new building on site, there are ways to add value too.

Low Cost 'playable' idea for the corner of a field.

Low Cost 'playable' idea for the corner of a field.

Getting the children involved
Schools often take advantage of the whole ‘new building’ process to engage their children through school council, and some go further and use curriculum linked projects in their classes. However this can be taken much further from inception to completion, with expert support. The Landscapes Naturally website has examples of children taking part in problem solving, site surveying, design development, interviewing contractors (that’s a good challenge for us!) and even getting involved in hands-on construction too. (all age appropriate and assessed for risk/benefit of course). This level of involvement, as agents of change,  gives children (primary and secondary) a real sense of the whole process of construction, and a great sense of pride in their achievement and the positive impact they have had on their school.

Learning outdoors
Learning outdoors is essential for some aspects of science and DT curriculum delivery - some elements really can't be learnt effectively indoors!  We need to give children memorable learning experiences rooted in real life. Even relatively minor interventions in the landscape around new buildings can offer a valuable teaching and learning resource, as well as stimulating play environments.

For more information about Landscapes Naturally, case studies and blog examples of outdoor learning in action, take a look at www.landscapesnaturally.co.uk