The first time I genuinely experienced the power of using the outdoors for learning was on a visit to The Coombes School in Berkshire, UK. The school grounds have been developed over 40 years to become what the school now describes as “a living resource for all curriculum areas” and the “largest classroom”. It is a magical place, creating wonder, respect for the environment, space for play and quiet reflection while learning. Images of the school accompanied by brief commentary by school leaders give a reasonable idea of the school’s approach.
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education uses the outdoors as, what is termed, the “third educator.” Reggio Children, the Domus Academy Research Centre published research into the role of the learning environment over 15 years ago now the collection of writings edited by Ceppi (1998) Children, Spaces, Relations: metaproject for an environment for young children. This work has been influential in the shaping of thinking about, not only early childhood but also, learning in the school years.
A school should be a place that “senses” what is happening outside – from the weather to seasonal changes, from the time of day to the rhythms of the town…
Many of our students engage with virtual worlds through gaming both for social and educational purposes. Research into the impact of gaming indicates the positive effects of moderate gaming. Schools that emphasise and value the connection with, and learning in and about the landscape around us, provide an important balance for students.