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Outdoor Learning Environments

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Part One: Why Outdoor Learning Environments Matter

Learning happens indoors and outside. We know outdoor learning environments are welcome alternatives to traditional classrooms, but does research suggest they benefit students? The short answer is yes.

Academic research demonstrates that outdoor classrooms:

Enhance social and emotional development. Outdoor learning spaces encourage children to improve social skills, such as collaboration, communication and teamwork. They also help children develop emotional intelligence and self-regulation skills.

Increase physical activity. Being outside allows students to be physically active, which is linked to improved cognitive function, mood and overall health. Studies have also suggested that children with regular access to outdoor learning tend to be more physically active than those without.

Improve health. Outdoor classrooms were critical in allowing school districts to alter teaching practices to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, researchers have shown that being in nature reduces stress, improves mood and increases feelings of well-being.

Increase engagement and motivation. Outdoor learning can help focus students’ attention, improve student engagement and reduce problematic behaviors. 

Improve academic performance. Students with access to outdoor learning tend to have higher test scores and better academic performance than those who do not have access to these spaces.

But don’t take my word for it; do some reading for yourself:

Coming soon: In the second of our three-part series, we’ll explore different types of outdoor learning environments.

Andy Lyons,
Engagement Specialist

Andy Lyons is an Engagement Specialist for Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA). Andy is based in our Madison office and supports school districts in their community engagement efforts.