Activities To Transform Outdoor Education

It’s Spring, and there’s no better time to get out into the great outdoors and give your curriculum a new spin. Most children thrive on being outdoors and you can often see their engagement levels soar as they marvel at the wonders of nature as their imaginations are set free. Outdoor Classroom Day is a bi-annual event organised in the UK and Ireland by Learning through Landscapes (LtL) as part of the global campaign for outdoors education through ActionFunder. It was originally sponsored by Unilever’s ‘Dirt is Good’ brands Persil/OMO to make it global, although there are many more partners and sponsors now.  

The days will be celebrated on May 23rd and 7th November in 2024 and they are a perfect time to rethink your teaching and learning style and offer something new and exciting. Whether you have your own outdoor space or not, there is always something that you can do to turn the outdoors into an innovative education space for children.  

The Origins And Aims Of Outdoor Classroom Day 

The original campaign to get children outdoors started in 2011 after the publication of Tim Gill’s “Sowing the Seeds” report on how to reconnect London’s children with the nature. That led to the formation of Empty Classroom Day, which expanded and developed into  

Outdoor Classroom Day in 2016. It is now a global movement to “inspire and celebrate outdoor learning and play”. Although there are two campaign days each year, the aim is to use the days as a catalyst to give children more time outdoors every day at home, school, nursery, or anywhere outdoors. Since the start of the movement, over 4 million children have taken part in the UK and Ireland and over 12 million worldwide.  

The longer-term goals of the project include: 

  • Outdoor learning is part of every school day   
  • A consistent minimum target for recess/playtime   
  • Schools to advocate for more time outdoors  

Why Outdoor Education? 

In the modern world, children are spending less time outdoors than ever before and this is affecting their health, well-being and development. Spending time outdoors can help children become healthier and happier and it’s a great opportunity to give children life skills that will equip them for a successful future too.  

The benefits of outdoor learning that have been identified include: 

  • A better understanding of the environment 
  • Improved engagement with learning 
  • Development of key skills for life 
  • Improvements to physical and mental health 

Central to the ideas of learning is the concept of playing outdoors too, and in early years, play is an important aspect of how children learn. According to the official website: “Play not only teaches critical life skills such as resilience, teamwork and creativity, but is central to children’s enjoyment of childhood.  

How Can I Get Involved in Outdoor Education? 

You can sign up here to get involved with this special day and add your setting’s name to the global map of events and activities. There are also a lot of very good resources and ideas for things to do on the website which can be found at: You can also get inspired by seeing how other families and organisations across the world have engaged in outdoor learning at all times of the year, and you can use #OutdoorClassroomDay on your own social media posts to add your initiatives too.   

What If I Don’t Have Any Outdoor Space? 

Some settings may not have access to a large outdoor space on their premises, but this need not stop you joining in with the fun. There are parks, playgrounds, beaches, local ponds and rivers which are all places where learning can take place. Make sure you do proper risk assessments first. You could also enquire about whether any local residents would welcome an occasional visit to their garden for some outdoor learning, or partner with an older people’s home for some intergenerational outdoor activities too.  

Organisations And Resources 

There are many organisations such as Forest School who can help with outdoor learning as well and the LtL website which has a list of interesting forest-based activities at Other organisations with resources and ideas include The Woodland Trust ( Miniforesters (, and Muddy Faces (  


Funding is available for outdoor learning through the Local School Nature Grants programme and you may be able to find local grants by contacting local charities or your Local Authority. The Local Schools Nature Grants programme is open to early years, primary, and secondary schools and settings in England, Scotland, and Wales. To be eligible for a grant, early years settings must have a dedicated building and employ more than five members of staff. Funding has closed for this year now, but there’s plenty of time to plan for next year.  

Do I Need Specific Training? 

You don’t need specific training to get outside and play, but there are many low-cost in-person short courses and online courses available to help you and your practitioners get the most out of outdoor learning. You can find courses starting at £10 at including training for: 

  • Early years foundations outdoors 
  • Early years literacy outdoors 
  • Early years maths outdoors 
  • Early years nurturing nature
  • Fire lighting 

Simple Ideas For Outdoor Education To Get You Started 

If the above ideas are not enough, we’ve put together a few simple education ideas of our own to help you get outdoors and celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day: 

  • Go on a nature walk – prepare a checklist for common things to see such as birds, trees and insects and get the children to tick off what they see 
  • Create an outdoor obstacle course 
  • Go on a minibeast hunt 
  • Create some outdoor art with natural materials such as sticks, leaves and stones 
  • Create a treasure trail using signs and symbols (see here for simple signs) 
  • Take weather readings such as temperature, wind direction and rainfall 
  • Recreate cloud patterns using paints or natural art 
  • Take a survey of local nature – you can measure things, count things and group similar items to help with numeracy and maths 
  • Create stories based on outdoor characters 
  • Read stories about the outdoors – some classics such as “The Wind in the Willows” or Beatrix Potter stories can engage children with outdoor animals 
  • Make some bird boxes or bug hotels 

Getting outdoors is fun whatever the weather but being prepared for the British weather is key for a successful trip. Make sure you do your research and risk assessments well, take first aid kits and appropriate clothing, footwear and snacks, and above all, have FUN!!

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