Can you believe that it’s only one month until we celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day 2020, on Thursday, November 5? And can you believe just how much the education landscape has changed since last Outdoor Classroom Day? 2020 has been a year of massive upheaval, with COVID-19 changing the way we live our lives and the way we educate our children.
Most children around the country spent the first two terms of the school year in and out of classrooms (some all three!), with massive disruptions to their learning, and adverse effects to their mental wellbeing.
Teachers prepared weeks’ and months’ worth of online learning resources and supporting education packs for at-home learning (in a very short time), only to find that they were to return to classrooms, which then shut down again, mere weeks later. The situation is a moveable feast, and it’s been a frustrating time for everyone involved.
We’ve learned a lot through the pandemic. Those parents “homeschooling” (and I use the term loosely!) their children while simultaneously attempting to complete their own work have realised just how much assistance and attention it takes to support children in their learning journey, and that their child’s teacher has the patience of a saint.
Our screen and device-hungry young people have discovered just how much they crave face-to-face, real-life interaction with their friends. And how much they really, really want to be at school.
Something we’ve seen through the pandemic is thousands of examples demonstrating what we’ve always known - that teachers are passionate about their students, they want what is best for the kids, and they are champions at rising to the challenge, whatever the circumstances.
This year, Outdoor Classroom Day is about celebrating our teachers and supporting them to take learning and play outdoors as much as they can, and with the challenges of COVID-19, we know that spending time outdoors can help in many ways.
And Aussie teachers agree! The Muddy Hands report gathered information from teachers around the world, and the results showed:
• Australian primary schools make the most time for play: 58% have more than 1 hour per day.
• 72% of Australian teachers said they take lessons outdoors at least once a week, more than any other country represented in the survey.
• Almost all (97% or more) Australian teachers think playing outdoors develops vital skills for life, including social skills, imagination and creativity, ability to focus on a task, and fine motor skills.
• 92% of Australian teachers think playing outdoors helps children develop a better understanding of the environment.
• Also, two thirds (65%) of Australian teachers think that by including time for outdoor play as part of the school day, children are better behaved.
• 84% think children who learn outdoors are more engaged in learning.
• Almost nine out of ten teachers think children are happier when they learn outdoors and after playing outside.
• Despite our weather and the pressures of curriculum, more than one in five (21%) of Australian teachers say that nothing stops children having outdoor playtime, compared to just 6% of US schools.
And the numbers don’t lie.
Since Nature Play WA began delivering the Outdoor Classroom Day movement in Australia, we’ve seen 8,611* teachers and 1,005,617* children registered to take part! That’s a massive commitment from Australian educators to taking play and learning outdoors!
While the learning landscape has been very different this year, one thing we can be sure of is the commitment Aussie teachers have to their students. We’d love you to join us again, to celebrate outdoor play and learning, by signing up to the Outdoor Classroom Day movement.
Celebrate with us on November 5, and share your photos and videos of Outdoor Classroom Day using the hashtags #OutdoorClassroomDayAustralia and #LoveTheOutdoors so we can share them far and wide!
The Outdoor Classroom Day website has hundreds of lesson plans, resources and materials to support and encourage teachers to take learning outside. We hope you’ll register your class or school with the movement, to show that you value the benefits of taking learning and play outdoors.
Nature Play WA is the not-for-profit delivering Outdoor Classroom Day in Australia, and we’re committed to supporting teachers in taking their students outdoors, every day, for their mental and physical health and wellbeing.
*Numbers accurate as at October 1, 2020