Outdoor Learning & Play – Why bother?

rain photo
Photo by grongar

It’s a hassle

Do you remember the time you really wanted to get outside with your class or group of children and the sky darkened?
What did you do?
Chances are you mentally pictured a bunch of wet kids (and hours down the road a bunch of annoyed parents) and did u turn and switched to some more covered or indoor activity.
It’s understandable that that becomes the instinctive reaction because:

  • most of us have grown up in a country where rain stopped play is part of the national identity (along with the wrong sort of leaves on the line stopping the trains)
  • most schools and children’s groups lack the basics when it comes to getting outside

Is that really the problem?

As a parent 12 years ago, I found that really frustrating. Surely the benefits outweighed the down side of my children getting a bit wet and a bit muddy?

I spoke to parents, I looked on forums online I asked everybody I knew if they could see the benefits of learning and playing outside for children.

I created massive lists to convince people to let my children and everybody’s children be outside, year round.

The evidence stacked up from round the globe:

  • Children are drawn naturally (without any interference from us) to earth, water, air and fire. Given the chance and opportunity they will learn and play for hours
  • Self belief, learning capacity, personal confidence, enthusiasm, communication and problem-solving ability, social awareness and emotional well-being all improve when children get outside or are taught outside regularly
  • Children learn to appreciate the environment and get a sense for how what we do impacts the environment
  • It addresses educational inequality –  getting outside positively re-motivates some children who just don’t get on in a traditional indoor classroom

and so it went on…. there’s masses of research to be found here too, on the site of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom

and then the penny dropped.

It’s about the right tools for the job

It’s not about enthusiasm for outdoor learning and play it’s about the right tools for the job. The why is not the problem. It came down to the how.

Most teachers want more outdoors

Most teachers deeply value outdoor activity, learning or play but are just not equipped properly to deliver on it. I owed the world an apology.

Time to change focus. That’s when 12 years ago I stopped the why preaching and began to focus on the how to make it happen practically for enthusiastic schools, forest schools, groups and classes.

When I listened to teachers and joined their forums online I found the focus was on things like:

  • what clothes are strong enough to survive in schools?
  • what’s better – all in one suits or 2 pieces or bib and brace?
  • should I invest in waterproofs which are also breathable and windproof?
  • is it false economy to buy a cheaper waterproof suit in order to kit out the entire year group?

Those questions 12 years ago informed our business development and led to the Adventure Togs Schools & Groups Clothing Audit. This is a simple checklist for schools and groups to see if you’re properly equipped:

Adventure Togs Schools & Groups Clothing Audit

Does my school:

1. Have wellies available for all children? YES / NO
2. Have waterproof suits for all children? YES / NO
3. Require children to wear a sun hat? YES / NO
4. Require children to bring their own sunscreen into school? YES / NO
5. Have extra clothing available for layering in cold weather? YES / NO

With the right tools anything is possible.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”