Learning Opportunities in Outdoor Environments

Nature has a way of touching all our lives. Early childhood and elementary school students are no different. Outdoor learning environments (OLEs) offer great benefits to schools and those they teach. These dynamic spaces go beyond the playground, creating new learning opportunities, supporting, and expanding what’s taught within the building.

Outdoor instruction engages children across learning styles and abilities. Nature and outdoor play have a positive impact on childhood development, social skills, and both physical and mental health. The flexibility of outdoor learning environments means they work for many climates, student populations, and pedagogies. The cost of an OLE for your campus is also relatively low, compared to indoor and other architectural elements of a project.

“There's really no negative aspect to teaching children inside and then also teaching them outside. It's just a matter of having the appropriate space to do so.”
— Courtney McKelvey, RLA, ASLA

Often focusing on science-related teaching, OLEs can open a child’s mind to concepts around plant life, food production, weather, and seasons. But they also serve as outlets to explore music, art, reading, and more. Educational themes extending from inside to out (and back in again) open a range of possibilities for students to learn.

Outdoor learning spaces are just as deserving of thoughtful design as the inside spaces of a school.

The educational community’s understanding of biophilia and play-based learning shows that these outdoor learning environments are extremely valuable for young learners. With both interior and exterior teaching spaces complementing each other, students gain an even more well-rounded educational experience.

Courtney McKelvey

Design Leader / Principal

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