Outdoor Classroom Day 2018: Celebrating the benefits of outdoor learning

The success of this year’s annual global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign has shown that teaching and learning needn’t be confined to the four walls of the classroom. Despite the inclement weather that affected some parts of South Africa on 1 November 2018, schools across the country held at least one class outdoors and showed unique South African flair and originality in the activities they chose!

Around 150,000 learners from early childhood development (ECD) centres and schools across South Africa participated this year in the event which promotes outdoor learning. The campaign’s long-term goal is for outdoor learning to become part of every school day for every child.

Twitter was the main platform used by participants to document and share their planned and spontaneous activities on the day.


Elsewhere, over 3 million children from regions in the northern hemisphere including Turkey, the USA, the UK and east and west Europe also took to exploring and learning outdoors in chilly, autumnal weather conditions.



Muddy hands, a new report released on the day, explains why time outdoors should be part of every child’s day and includes the full findings of the Outdoor Classroom Day 2017 survey– the largest ever survey of teachers on outdoor learning and play.


Why advocate for more time outdoors?

The research, conducted by the Global Outreach foundation, indicates that schoolchildren around the world spend little time outside the classroom, with 65% of schools devoting less than an hour per day to outdoor activity.

In an interview with Durban’s Daily News, Outdoor Classroom Day’s  South African leader, Lynda Smith, explained why children spend less time outdoors each day than the 60 minutes prescribed for prison inmates.

"The use of cell phones and technology among rich and poor children definitely add to the reason why children spend less time outdoors than they used to. It's a challenge, especially in the early years when children learn by moving their bodies and through their senses.’’

Smith warns that children who have not developed sufficiently through movement and spending time outdoors may struggle with reading and writing later in life. Happily though, for children who do engage in outdoor activities, there are many benefits.  

‘’Brain development between the right and left brain happens with movement of big muscles; and when climbing trees and riding bicycles, big muscles are engaged. In addition, outdoor classes improve children's behaviour, creativity and enhance their team working and problem-solving skills. Children also become excited and lessons learnt outdoors stick with them for a lifetime,” says Smith.

In a country where literacy levels among schoolchildren are frighteningly low, now is the time for outdoor activity to play a key role in the development of a generation of environmentally-aware, resilient problem-solvers who are happier, healthier and less likely to experience mental health issues.



30 November -1, 00:00