The stereotypical image in most people’s heads when it comes to studying is children sitting at a desk in a silent room, working their way through piles of reading material or staring begrudgingly at a computer screen. This doesn’t have to be the case, and indeed there are arguments that suggest that children study better when their education occasionally takes place out in the open. Studies have suggested that this not only helps a child’s education, but can also help combat behavioural problems in some cases.
Don’t just take my word for it though. One of the studies in question was published in 2005, when author Richard Louv came up the term “nature deficit disorder”. This is a phrase that can be applied to children who don’t spend much time outdoors, and the term refers to the feeling of alienation and apathy that some of these children may suffer from as a result. Further studies have been published to back up this theory. Recently, the National Trust body produced a report that highlights the dangers of getting too isolated from green, outdoor spaces and mentioned how this can have an adverse effect on education. Furthermore, a 2011 study of Welsh schoolchildren found an improved performance in terms of study and behaviour in those who spent at least some of their studying time outside.
As a result of this, it’s becoming more and more common for education to be incorporated to the outdoors. This is the case in both schools and at home. However, not every home and school has the facilities to carry out study sessions in the outdoors, especially in countries where the weather can be somewhat unreliable.
Outdoor learning spaces are becoming more common, and discussions from respected bodies are opening up more possibilities. In 2009, Futurelab – an educational body and think-tank – released a guide called “Reimagining Outdoor Learning Spaces”, which helped with design principles for those wishing to create such a space. One of the main points that could be taken from this discussion was that you simply cannot create a classroom outdoors, and that the spaces should be used to encourage active learning.
When creating an active learning space in the home, it’s important to consider a number of things. Depending on the age of the children studying, you may need to do a little risk assessment to ensure that the opportunity for injury is minimal. Of course, ensuring that the tables and chairs along with other furnishings are able to last in the weather is essential. It may be worth fitting a canopy or some other kind of shelter to ensure that the furniture and, of course, the pupils are protected from extreme run or indeed, rays from the sun.
Taking advantage of outdoor teaching should benefit families and children both in and out of school. The teachers will interact with children in a different way from time to time as a result, and both them and parents could benefit from the differences in a child’s behaviour.
Jack Oldham is a journalism graduate blogging on behalf of Canopies UK, who stock a number of school canopies, carports and other shelters.
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Image courtesy of whirledkid via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.