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Beyond the Textbook: How Kids Can Learn Outside the Classroom

A fundamental component in the new S.T.E.A.M. initiative at Laurel Hill is allowing students to go beyond the textbook. One of the ways we do this is with our very own Outdoor Classroom. If you haven’t already heard about this modern and holistic approach to education, allow us to introduce you.

The Outdoor Classroom

The core concept of The Outdoor Classroom (ODC) is to remove the restrictions and regulations of the traditional classroom and return freedom and responsibility to the students in an outdoor learning environment. Children are encouraged to learn, play, and interact with one another, and teachers are obliged to observe and support.

What does this mean exactly? An Outdoor Classroom is much more than just letting kids play outside all day; there are several essential features to making an ODC a successful learning environment.

 

Key Features of an Outdoor Classroom

  • Physical activity.
  • Time and freedom.
  • A full range of activities.
  • Developmentally-appropriate activities.
  • Comprehensive and holistic curriculum.

In short, The Outdoor Classroom should be rich with opportunities for children to thrive and develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively. By allowing students to learn at their own pace and by their own accord in an outdoor environment filled with hands-on experiences, we allow students to:

  • Make and learn from their own decisions.
  • Learn without pressure and time restraints.
  • Experience the outdoors in a positive light.
  • Build healthy habits for their future.
  • Be more inclined to physical activities.
  • Increase both self-reliance and social capabilities.

 

Benefits of an Outdoor Classroom

Increased levels of engagement.

Engagement is essential to learning. In the ODC, children initiate their own learning experiences and are fully engaged while teachers stand by to encourage and support, as opposed to traditional classroom lectures.

Better health.

It’s a no-brainer that spending more time outside participating in physical activities will improve one’s health, but it will also provide children with lasting healthy habits. At Laurel Hill, we make an effort to improve our students’ physical and mental wellbeing by incorporating mindfulness into the curriculum.

Heightened sense of responsibility.

By giving students the freedom to make their own decisions and experience the cause and effect of each choice, they gain a heightened sense of responsibility for their actions.

Community improvement and environmental awareness.

When children work together in an outdoor setting, they have more opportunities to learn about their environment and develop a love and respect for our earth. Laurel Hill provides gardens in our Outdoor Classroom to contribute to this benefit.

Enhanced learning

Several studies have been done on the effects of outdoor education and have concluded that the act of learning in an outdoor environment increases motivation and a desire to learn in students -- not to mention the improved levels of engagement, interaction, and focus.

Better grades, better health, decreased stress, enhanced self-reliance, improved memory, better communication skills, and more.

 

Beyond the textbook

At Laurel Hill, we strongly advocate a learning experience that reaches beyond the textbook. Our Outdoor Classroom provides developmentally-appropriate activities for age groups from preschool to eighth grade, and has been designed and constructed by certified experts in outdoor classroom development.

To learn more about how Laurel Hill cultivates a refreshing, engaging, hands-on learning experience for its students, read about our S.T.E.A.M. initiative: a powerful approach to education that incorporates the best of science, technology, engineering, architecture, and mindfulness.

Contact us to learn more about the exciting curriculum we offer at Laurel Hill!