Have you ever considered outdoor class room and nature learning spaces? We’re talking outdoor classroom benefits, design, materials and more! Learn how to create your own nature based learning stations outside to meet your outdoor classroom goals!
Anytime the weather is nice, we find ourselves moving more and more to outdoor class room ideas and learning spaces.
We’re lucky to have a great covered back deck that we’ve lined with outdoor curtains.
In the spring, summer (and even fall), it allows us to stay out there and work even when there is a gentle, warm rain.
But, I’ve been looking for some more great ideas for outdoor classrooms and outdoor classroom activity ideas.
Because, according to the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA):
Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media.
We’ve definitely been guilty of this during some head-down, hermit times of homeschooling.
Before we get to outdoor classroom architecture and building, let’s cover the outdoor classroom definition and some common questions.
What is an outdoor classroom?
An outdoor class room is a nature-based learning space. It encourages kids to spend time outside in unstructured play and in different nature learning stations exploring, using imaginary learning, and trying new things associated with nature and the outdoors.
What should be in an outdoor classroom?
An outdoor class room should encourage nature play. Outdoor classroom activities and outdoor classroom materials can include items like:
- Mud table
- Water table
- Sand table
- Art center using items found in nature
- Music center using items found in nature
- Insect houses
- Bird houses
- Bat houses
- Obstacle courses
- Flower and planting table
- Fairy garden pots
- Nature weaving loom
- Sensory path
- Rock painting station
- & MORE!
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Why is outdoor learning so important?
What are the benefits of outdoor learning?
Not only can being outside improve mood and develop an appreciation of nature, it can also help with a variety of factors like fine and gross motor skills.
ChildMind.org states, “most of the studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.”
What are the benefits of an outdoor classroom?
- Improves sensory skills
- Helps motor skills
- Improves fitness and helps kids stay healthier
- Increases attention spans
- Improves memory
- Sun exposure to Vitamin D helps many body processes
- Helps foster creativity
- Helps develop executive function skills like planning, troubleshooting, prioritizing, multitasking and more
- Fosters an appreciation of nature
- Relieves stress
How much does an outdoor classroom cost?
Your out door classroom will depend on your needs and wants. You can easily add a few learning with nature items using materials you find for under $100. Other people build elaborate outdoor classrooms to meet the needs of large groups and can easily cost from a few hundred dollars into the thousands.
Your outdoor classroom design can cost as little or as much as you need! Also, you can start small and continue to add materials and learning stations as your budget allows.
Creating outdoor classrooms or learning space (no matter where you live or learn) is a must! (You can even create some balcony outdoor learning spaces!)
Need some ways to get your outdoor classrooms started? Check out these awesome ideas and get started ASAP!
These ideas are perfect for at-home learning, an outdoor preschool, or even an outdoor class room for schools for outdoor classroom day!
8 CRAZY AMAZING Outdoor Class Room Ideas and Nature Learning Space Ideas
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #1: Start with Amazing Outdoor Classroom Furniture.
You’ll definitely want to start your outdoor class room with some awesome outdoor classroom furniture. I like the things that allow movement (like swings).
Be sure to have something to shield them from the sun some of the time:
Or, try one of these pop-up canopy tents (that you can store away when not in use).
If you’re on a budget and can’t spend a lot on outdoor furniture (or you’re working with a small space and don’t have the room), just spread a couple of blankets and outdoor pillows underneath and they’ll rearrange how they want to use it for learning or hanging out.
Remember, you’re creating FUN learning spaces to get your kids outside and in nature. So, outdoor classroom seating doesn’t have to be expensive!
It doesn’t need to be perfectly matched or make complete sense to you!
If you give kids outdoor classrooms, they’ll pick (or make) their own favorite learning spaces— whether it be to read, work on their laptop, or play and nature school!
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #2: Make Some Noise with an Outdoor Musical Wall
That’s why adding a musical wall to your outdoor learning space is one of the best ideas ever.
Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills . . .
. . . so why not take it outside, too?
So build a music wall, just attach some musical instruments and noisemakers to a fence or piece of plywood.
If you don’t want to create an entire music wall, just provide some musical instruments for outside.
Our favorites are musical instrument kits that can be packed away after use.
(But, really, go for the wall if you can.)
You can make a quick musical wall by grabbing an affordable trellis and using zip-ties to secure the musical instruments against it.
With the trellis, you can move it around the yard to different locations.
(And, BONUS, it’s great for a balcony if you don’t have a yard!)
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #3: Add a Barefoot Sensory Path.
Not only is this sensory path beautiful and functional, but it is also a great sensory learning tool to add to your outdoor learning space or garden.
It works like this:
You create a stepping stone or part of a path with different materials.
Maybe one stepping stone is smooth.
Another stepping stone is bumpy with small pebbles.
Another stepping stone or section has grass.
And so on . . .
You can get creative with the type of materials you use in the path, just mix it up for different sensory effects.
Play At Home Teacher has a really great example of a cool sensory path over on Pinterest.
Sensory play builds brain nerve connections and helps complete more complex learning tasks!
You could also add a sensory play tent that you can move around your outdoor space!
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #4: Include Nature Discovery Centers.
Discovery is one of the best parts of moving your learning outdoors!
And, an outdoor learning space wouldn’t be complete without some nature discovery centers!
Have fun by including some nature discovery centers in your outdoor classrooms like:
Don’t be grossed out, but things like a “bug hotel” or a bat house because they are a great ways for kids to learn about the outdoors, insects, animals, and biodiversity.
If you don’t want to buy a bug house or bee house, you can easily build them using cheap wood pallets of any size that will affordably help you make one large or small.
Did you know building a bat house to attract bats can help reduce mosquitoes in your yard?
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #5: Plant a Garden.
A garden provides so many learning opportunities!
14 Benefits of Gardening with Kids:
- Engages senses.
- Allows them to practice fine motor skills.
- Teaches them responsibility.
- Allows them to learn about nutrition and healthy eating.
- Provides examples of the cycles of life.
- Promotes calm moods.
- Helps kids understand where food comes from.
- Introduces science.
- Incorporates family time and working together.
- Creates a better connection with nature.
- Helps them to understand the importance of plant life for humans, animals, and insects.
- Can create an interest in cooking.
- Bridges into learning about animals and insects.
- Helps with executive skills like planning and prioritizing.
If you don’t have a yard and can’t plant a garden, don’t worry!
TIP: Research NATIVE PLANTS for your area and be sure to plant some of those to help the insect and wildlife found in your area!
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #6: Add a Water Table, Sand Table, or Mud Table.
What would outdoor learning be without a little water or sand or mud?
(It’s fun to get dirty, y’all!)
My best childhood friend and I used to spend countless summer hours making mud pies when we were kids. Then, we would create a store or a restaurant and “sell” them.
Did you know that mud helps boost a child’s immune system?
You can buy a water table or sand table, or make your own!
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #7: Create an Outdoor Obstacle Course!
Even if you don’t, obstacle courses and climbing walls are all the rage right now!
And, even kids are getting into the action.
Adding some obstacle courses to your learning area is not only fun, but helps encourage exercise, practicing gross motor skills, and MORE (without them even knowing!).
You can create an awesome outdoor classroom obstacle course, but it doesn’t really have to be hard. Add some big logs, rocks, ropes from tree limbs, etc. to make some fun obstacle course options.
If you can’t do anything big, bulky, or permanent, try a pool noodle obstacle course!
Creating Outdoor Classrooms #8: Offer Outdoor Art Centers.
Art centers are great outdoor classroom additions because they appeal to a variety of ages, stages, levels, and interests.
You don’t have to confine art to the a canvas and easel indoors!
- Get a indoor/outdoor Plexiglass Art Easel
- Hang twine or laundry line with clothes pins to hang drying art
- Paint a wall, part of a fence, or piece of wood with chalkboard paint and provide chalk
- Make an easy nature weaving loom
- Provide large flat paving rocks, paint brushes, and buckets of water. They can paint the rocks and then when it dries they can start over again!
- Hang an old white sheet or table cloth from the clothes line. Fill spray bottles with liquid watercolors and spray away to create some abstract art on the sheet!
LET US KNOW YOUR OUTDOOR CLASS ROOM IDEAS IN THE COMMENTS!