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Renewed Interest in Outdoor Classrooms

Renewed Interest in Outdoor Classrooms

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” – Alfred Wainwright

I feel as though this well-worn quote can never be overstated. With our first real snow and cold weather of the season comes a reminder of the value for children (and adults) in getting outside in all seasons and in ALL types of weather. One unintended positive consequence of the pandemic has been a renewed interest in outdoor classrooms. The movement toward increasing children’s time spent outdoors has been around for the past two decades and grew on the heels of Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Since then, research has revealed innumerable benefits for children who regularly spend time in outdoor natural settings.


  • Get sick less often as natural materials can stimulate children’s immune system
  • Tend to be more physically active and less likely to be overweight
  • Are more resistant to stress; have a lower incidence of behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth
  • Play in more diverse, imaginative, and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills
  • Have a greater ability to focus with reduced symptoms of ADD after contact with nature
  • Experience improved observational and reasoning skills
  • Have increased compassion, generosity, and other prosocial behaviors
  • Have reduced risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness)

In addition, experiences in natural, more challenging spaces help children learn to recognize, assess, and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence.

The Paradigm Project offered a webinar this summer focused on outdoor learning, featuring the Boulder JCC Forest School and Eric Nelson of the Outdoor Learning Project. Listening to the recording is bound to stimulate your thinking about outdoor learning in ECE settings.

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, it is all the more reason for children to spend increased time outdoors as opposed to staying indoors when the weather turns cold. As educators, we are models for attitudes toward the colder weather and want to be intentional about what it is we model. This may require a shift in one’s thinking and definitely requires dressing appropriately ourselves. So, bundle up in layers and get those children outside! As adults, you may find that the benefit is not restricted to the children!

“If we are to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel Carson

Additional Resources