Why learning outside the classroom?


Many young people increase their well-being through the Healthy Schools, which provides a whole-school approach to behaviour and learning based on the school ethos.

Children planting in school garden

Growing vegetables and herbs offers opportunities for young people to develop environmental responsibility

Exploring well-being through direct experiences adds depth and relevance to classroom learning. The following are examples:

  • Growing vegetables and herbs, harvesting, composting and cooking all offer opportunities for young people to develop environmental responsibility, contribute to healthier lifestyles, understand better where food comes from, develop important life skills and, when they experience new flavours, educate the palate.
  • Working in a team in a school garden or local allotment is like being in a ‘green gym’ — being involved in physical activity as well as developing social and communication skills.
  • Experiencing total darkness and/or silence in a wild remote place is an opportunity to explore feelings and reactions to unfamiliar surroundings — fear, excitement, and comfort from friends, for example.
  • Role playing or acting out situations with actors in a theatre workshop is a safe, managed environment in which to explore emotions, reactions to other people’s behaviour, and the effects of one’s own actions upon others.
  • Sacred places offer unique surroundings and atmosphere for reflection and exploration of spirituality and faith.

Research shows the beneficial effects of learning outside the classroom on well-being. Many direct experiences cannot happen in a classroom environment because young people need different spaces and activities to help them. Learning outside the classroom in non-formal settings can help young people to:

  • experience and understand their emotions which are often turbulent in adolescence
  • learn how to operate successfully with their peers and with adults
  • see the potential for experiencing calm and relaxation through reflection
  • take control of what they eat
  • release energy and increase fitness through physical activity.

Research by NFER shows that there is substantial evidence to suggest that outdoor adventure programmes can impact positively on young people’s:

  • attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions — examples of outcomes include improved independence, confidence, self-esteem, locus of control, self-efficacy, personal effectiveness and coping strategies

interpersonal and social skills — such as social effectiveness, communication skills, group cohesion and teamwork.