Welcome to the second part of our series on the evolution of outdoor learning in Scotland. In our previous blog, we explored the rich history of outdoor education and its transition from a predominantly green space activity to an approach that can thrive in the concrete environment. Today, we dive deeper into why outdoor learning in concrete areas is not just suitable but essential and the myriad benefits it offers.
Outdoor learning in a concrete environment, often referred to as urban outdoor education, is crucial for several reasons. While traditional outdoor education often takes place in natural settings, there are numerous benefits to bringing outdoor learning into urban or concrete environments. Here are ten reasons why it’s important:
1. Accessibility: Urban areas offer greater accessibility to a diverse student population. As we know, the vast majority of playgrounds are concrete. If we choose to head off-site, we need to ensure paperwork and permissions are in place, enough adults to meet ratios, and many more complications. Staying in the playground means a teacher can take their class outside on their own when it suits.
2. Real-world relevance: Learning in a concrete environment provides students with direct exposure to the practical applications of their knowledge and skills. They can see how concepts from their textbooks translate into real-world scenarios, making their learning experiences more engaging and relevant.
We know this is the case in green spaces, but often forget it is also true of concrete space.
3. Environmental awareness: Urban outdoor education deepens students’ understanding of urban ecosystems and sustainability challenges. They learn about issues like air and water quality, green spaces, and the impact of human activity on the environment. This knowledge nurtures a sense of environmental responsibility and citizenship, motivating students to make more informed and sustainable choices.
Learning for sustainability is part of education and can be undertaken in concrete spaces.
4. Problem-solving: Concrete environments present a wide range of unique challenges for students. Whether finding a way to build a den, designing a functional urban garden, or undertaking a range of STEM tasks, students are forced to think critically and develop creative problem-solving skills, which are valuable in various aspects of life.
5. Health and well-being: Spending time outdoors, even in urban settings, positively impacts both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that outdoor time reduces stress and fosters relaxation, contributing to overall mental well-being – even in concrete environments.
6. Social Skills: Interacting with peers in an outdoor setting encourages children to cooperate, share, and communicate. These interactions foster important social skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, which are valuable for personal and academic development. Experience has shown me that often, the children who excel outside are those who struggle indoors. Sometimes, those who excel indoors can feel deskilled outdoors. This helps develop relationships and supports social skills.
7. Sense of Place: Engaging in outdoor learning within urban environments allows students to develop a profound sense of place. They connect with the concrete playground and landscapes, streets, buildings, and neighbourhoods that make up their daily lives. This familiarity breeds a strong bond with their surroundings, helping them understand and appreciate the uniqueness of their urban environment. This in turn helps foster a deeper sense of belonging and a desire to protect and enhance their urban spaces. This sense of place can lead to a decrease in vandalism in school grounds.
Overall, urban outdoor education provides a unique opportunity for students to connect with their immediate surroundings, gain practical skills, and develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of urban life and the world at large. Incorporating concrete outdoor learning into a child’s education ensures a well-rounded development encompassing physical, mental, social, and practical skills while fostering an appreciation for the environment and diverse cultures. Stay tuned for the third part of our series, where we’ll share various outdoor activities that can be seamlessly integrated into urban outdoor education, providing a hands-on approach to learning in concrete environments.
Love Outdoor Learning is dedicated to supporting outdoor learning and play in schools and nurseries. We offer membership resources, publications, on-site support, and training programs to empower educators. Visit our website to discover how we can help you create enriching outdoor experiences for your students. Let’s embrace the beauty of outdoor learning together!