Outdoor Classroom Day is a global movement to inspire and celebrate outdoor play and learning at home and at school. At the GDST, we place great importance on making time for our students to be outside taking part in outdoor learning activities because we believe it is essential to encourage and nurture in them an interest in and a love of nature.
The importance of allowing learning time outdoors cannot be underestimated, and not just from a sustainability and eco perspective. The Wildlife Trust’s Nature/ Nurtures report found overwhelming evidence that engaging with outdoor activities improves children’s confidence, relationships and attitude to school work. In addition, it was found that taking part in outdoor learning activities helped 84% of children to feel more resilient in taking risks and trying new things.
The Benefits of Outdoor Learning
Outdoor learning also has an undeniably positive impact on children’s wellbeing and mental health, which the GDST believes to be of utmost importance in our pastoral care. The Noticing Nature Report found that children with a strong connection to nature, and who engage in activities linked to nature, are happier.
Our Trust Consultant Teacher for Sustainability, Alex Wrigglesworth, writes:
‘Research carried out by The Mental Health Foundation tells us that people tend to be happier in life when they have a strong emotional connection to nature and that ‘high quality natural spaces are better for us and our wellbeing’. At the GDST, we believe that outdoor learning spaces are important in developing students’ connection to nature and learning to care for the natural world.’
The GDST has long been committed to a holistic view of education, informed by 150 years of experience from which to draw on tailoring its provision, not only to how girls learn, but also to how they develop emotionally. We are proud to provide high quality outdoor space for our students across our family of 25 schools, and to have some exciting projects in the pipeline.
In September 2022, Sutton High School opened its new outdoor classroom, taking its inspiration from Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’ bestselling book The Lost Words. Creating an integral connection to nature extends to how we design our Early Years buildings. LTS Architects, the building designers, explain that ‘the material selection is based in the natural world, using exposed timber and recycled natural material finishes.’
Outdoor Classrooms at GDST Schools
Portsmouth High School students enjoy access to an on site outdoor classroom, as well as taking part in forest and beach schools. The girls venture outside in all weathers to make shelters, light fires and use tools as well as to look at the seasons and life cycles, with lessons supporting all areas of the curriculum allowing for hands-on experiences outside with science and nature activities.
Brighton Girls also take full advantage of their location by incorporating fortnightly beach school activities for their Reception and Key Stage 1 pupils. Newcastle High School for Girls’ Reception and Year 1 pupils enjoy learning in the mud-kitchen, developing skills through Forest School and seeing stories come to life in the outdoor storytelling garden, all the while engaging in memorable learning which they can take back into the classroom. Northampton High School’s dedicated wild area allows girls to explore, climb, use tools, make dens, build homes for animals and investigate mini-beasts. The outdoor learning benefits are evident in the dynamic design of Sheffield Girls’ Prep School’s playground.
It’s not just the younger years that benefit from a hands-on outdoor learning experience. Nottingham Girls’ High School’s climbing wall appeals to all ages and brings a new outdoor learning experience to PE lessons too, while Norwich High School’s outdoor theatre allows for more diverse cross curricular experiences. Shrewsbury High School also embraces the benefits of outdoor learning. Early Years pupils dig, create, experiment, pour and test out their hypotheses using a variety of media, materials and tools in the outdoor classroom. Whatever the weather, Shrewsbury pupils develop their character, curiosity and resilience by being exposed to the great outdoors.
The GDST Estates Team
The GDST Estates Team, oversees the design and construction of new outdoor learning spaces at schools across Trust. The team find it particularly exciting when designers come up with clever ways to enrich the Estate with outdoor teaching spaces, and of course when the girls make these spaces their own by learning and playing in harmony with the colours and scents of the natural world.
If you are interested in discovering more stimulating outdoor learning activities for your daughter, visit our GDST events page for upcoming educational events and opportunities!