The Outdoor Learning Environment Part 1

The most effective outdoor learning environment today is a dedicated multifunctional space in the school grounds:

  • providing for small and large group gathering.
  • conducive to a variety of activities, from active participation to quiet contemplation.
  • offering space to manipulate, gather and display materials & artefacts.
  • sheltered from inclement seasonal weather, as well as providing summer shade.

Twenty Years Ago

An outdoor classroom was often construed as an outdoor area where children could sit quietly and listen attentively to a teacher. Sitting closely, facing inwards, and focused on the teacher, this outdoor classroom might have been a circle of seats or a timber gazebo with a roof. 


Our classes require a larger area to operate in – with a whole class gathering space, as well as smaller group zones, tables, display areas, varied surfaces, plants and trees, and so on. 

Distracting or exhilarating…

One of the biggest misapprehensions of the outdoor classroom is that children get distracted and lose concentration when they are outdoors.  This is certainly true for the beginnings of any outdoor session, and the exhilaration of being in direct contact with the cosmos is all pervading! 


Research shows that such stimulated beginnings settle down after a few minutes, and certainly after 15 minutes, children are eager to participate in class activities.  Retention of facts and stories have been shown to be more effective when imparted outside of the classroom.

Hampden Street

The outdoor learning environment we created with Hampden Street School is such an example of an effective, seasonally practical and multifunctional area. 

The 12 meter diameter circle of artificial grass allows all year access, and the circular shape encourages people to face each other and interact.  As well as assembly’s and singing sessions, there are also slots for mindfulness and yoga. 


Classes can book the space for an hour at a time, and the area is not only popular with the children – few daily time slots are unused!

See more here:

or get in touch to talk about your project and how we can design a valuable resource for learning.   

Next time, we will talk further about this project and the uniquely special ingredient that ensures the design is a guaranteed success from the beginning…..

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