Creating successful outdoor learning environments (OLE’s)

In Part 1, we examined successful outdoor learning environments as a multifunctional space for large and small group gatherings, offering opportunities for diverse activities and easily accessible to everyone all year.  The area should not be cramped or short on space, yet its boundaries need to be defined. 

Classes are more likely to visit, and the area will work best if sited near to school buildings, with a framework of trees and other plants to provide shelter, shade and seasonal beauty.

Effective example of an outdoor learning environment

We looked at the Hampden Street School OLE which has:

  • 12 meter diameter circle of artificial grass
  • a separate 6m diameter circular sitting space for storytelling
  • long tables for sorting and display; social games, talk and picnics etc
  • boulders and log rings for small group gathering
  • surrounding deciduous trees for summer shade and winter sun
  • and winter scented shrubs, spring bulbs, flowers and autumn colours

Why so successful?

Classes book this area most of the school day, alongside other uses such as outdoor assemblies, singing sessions, mindfulness, yoga, games etc.  And all of the above add to its attractive ambiance.

However, there is another reason why this area has become a special place for the children of the school: they helped build it, plant it, and now they also look after it.

The inclusive approach

There is no substitute for including all members of the school community in the construction, installation, and personalisation of outdoor areas.  From digging holes to shovelling, raking, planting, wheelbarrowing, sweeping, even mixing concrete. 

Gives meaning to places

The energy put into the construction becomes embedded in the physical space itself. By inspiring others to be involved, in the fun of working together, and the sharing of an endeavour which enhances the immediate environment – these efforts become part of the culture of the place.

In Part 3, we will look at some of the most effective practical tasks involving children and young people in constructing school grounds projects.  What tasks are best suited to different age groups? How many ‘workers’ can safely achieve the best finished results?

See more here:  https://www.leavesofgreen.co.uk/portfolio/ or get in touch to talk about your project.