Celebrating Outdoor Classroom Day
Today is OUTDOOR CLASSROOM DAY and many of our nurseries will be joining the global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play - WHATEVER THE WEATHER!
Over the last few decades growing fears about children’s safety (ie. increased levels of traffic, increased perception of child abduction etc.) have led adults to limit their access to outdoors.
Alongside this cultural shift has been a growing interest in media equipment, e.g. TV, DVDs, computer games, contributing to a society where many children live sedentary lives, with few opportunities to access outdoor spaces.
Nursery settings are ideally placed to allow children to play and socialise outside whilst supervised. Outdoor learning complements indoor learning and children should be able to move seamlessly between the two.
Playing outside is central to a child’s development and their enjoyment of childhood, creating lasting childhood memories. There are “strong links to improved attention and concentration, increased productivity and learning, better behaviour, and more positive relationships between adults and children” (Nursery World, 2017).
Children have the freedom to use their whole body, helping to develop their gross motor skills; only then will they be able to move on to control their fine motor skills, so that they are able to grip and control implements such as a pencil or brush, or knife and fork, for example. Playing outside at nursery provides safe, supervised opportunities for children to experience new challenges, assess risk and develop skills to manage new situations.
Outdoor Classroom Day - Its History
In 2012 a handful of schools in London celebrated outdoor learning as part of a new campaign, which they called ‘Empty Classroom Day’. The campaign had been conceived in 2011, by Anna Portch, with the support of teachers and educators at London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF).
The initiative grew and by 2015 more than 600 schools in 15 countries had become involved. Impressed by its success marketing giant Unilever joined the campaign, its Persil Team providing a ‘Dirt is Good’ workforce to help take the movement global, in partnership with the social enterprise Project Dirt.
In 2018 over 3.5 million children worldwide took part in the initiative, which has been re-named ‘Outdoor Classroom Day’. This year 483,308 have signed up in the UK and Ireland alone.
Outdoor Classroom Day raises awareness of the benefits of outdoor play:
“The real aim of Outdoor Classroom Day is to inspire the world by letting children and adults experience the true benefits of outdoor learning and play ... No matter where you are in the world, learning outdoors will help children focus, it will boost their creativity and enhance their imagination – and it’s also more fun! Whether it’s play, maths, music, science, art, drama or a language – being outdoors makes learning truly memorable and adds to the enjoyment of childhood.” (Hollyhock, J, 2017).
Otte, J. Join in Outdoor Classroom Day 2017. Nursery World.(April 2017)
Taking Part. Why You Should Join In On Outdoor Classroom Day. Nursery World.
Hollyhock, J. Chief Executive, Learning through Landscapes. (April 2017).
Outdoor Learning and Play. Learning through Landscapes.
National Childbirth Trust. Importance of Outdoor Play Activities for Kids
Benefits for Early Years of Learning Outside the Classroom. Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (Crown Copyright 2009).
Into the Woods Outdoor Nursery
Outdoor Matters. The Early Years Foundation Stage. Effective Practice: Outdoor Learning (Crown Copyright 2007)