Get The Kids Outside – It’s Outdoor Classroom Day!


Published: May 18, 2017

Outdoor classroom day.

You’ve heard about Walk to School Week and probably taken part too. Now here’s something else going on this week; which is helping children make the most of the great outdoors during class time.

And we’ve plenty of ideas on how it could also be an inspiration to help you promote safe, active, sustainable travel…

So… You Are Already Walking to School

This week children across the UK are taking part in Walk to School Week, organised by Living Streets charity. This one-week event helps raise awareness of the benefits of walking and can be the impetus to break the drive-to-school habit and increase walking to school in the long term.

A Million Children?!

But that’s not all that’s been going on this week to help children make the most of being outdoors; today is Outdoor Classroom Day, a global initiative to inspire outdoor learning and play. Over 300,000 children across the UK and over a million children across 52 countries have been involved so far.

What is Outdoor Classroom Day About?

The idea is simple really… by providing access to imaginative free resources online the organisers encourage schools to sign up and take part. There is a wealth of ideas for outdoor learning and play include activities for within and outside the school grounds, for example map-drawing and treasure-hunts. The success of the day means schools then want to take part every year and help promote the campaign by sharing what they’ve done on social media using #OutdoorClassroomDay.

Who Organises Outdoor Classroom Day?

The initiative is organised by social enterprise Project Dirt, a UK network for grass-roots community projects. It started in London as Empty Classroom Day but has grown and found a new name which works for the many partners involved. Thanks to corporate support from Unilever and other sponsors they have been able to expand the initiative much further afield. They have an excellent campaign website full of resources

How Can it Help Promote Safe, Active, Sustainable Travel?

School travel plans aren’t just about the journey to and from school; they are about promoting good habits for life. Here are some ideas for getting pupils outdoors and promoting safe, active, sustainable travel within the school day:

  1. Take groups of children out to see how far away a five or ten minute walk zone would be in different directions from the school. Later use the information to draw maps for parents and start a Park & Stride scheme.
  2. Take pupils out in groups to different locations and draw maps of the local area. Use these to make a large display about your local neighbourhood.
  3. Rate a walk from school to a local park or playground. Take pupils outside and get them to record what makes their walk easy and pleasant and what is not so good. See Living Streets’ Rate Your Walk resources to help with this in May.
  4. Hold an outdoor road safety lesson. See how bright, fluorescent colours help you to be seen in daytime more than dark colours with our Playground Squares activity.
  5. Use pedometers to work out how many steps it takes to get to certain local points, eg the bus stop or the corner shop. Then count how many steps it takes to walk 10 metres and use maths to work out the actual distance to the local points.
  6. Find out if any local haulage companies offer facilities for educational group visits, so pupils can learn how difficult it is for truck drivers to see them. Your local road safety team may be able to advise on this.
  7. Go into town on the bus. Whilst pupils may be used to a school bus or coaches for daytrips, many may not have ever actually gone on a bus, especially if they don’t live in a city. By taking a group of pupils on the bus they can learn about reading timetables, bus behaviour… and most importantly what they have to do to get off! Buses will become familiar and enable them (and give their parents the confidence to let them) travel independently out of school time.
  8. Offer cycle training. Getting pupils to bring their bikes into school for training will also encourage them to cycle more after school.
  9. Hold a scooter training session. This is good for younger pupils and those without bikes or not yet confident enough to do cycle training.
  10. Take the train. One day I realised my then young children had been on more steam trains than mainline trains! Whilst a visit to Thomas the Tank is fantastic, children also need to learn that trains are a mode of transport not just a day out. Taking a large group of pupils on the train may not be for the faint-heated but if they all understand the rules of behavior before they go and are wearing bright waistcoats for easy monitoring it will be less daunting.

Take the Credit

If your school uses any of these activity ideas, keep a record for your school travel plan monitoring. If you are taking part in the STARS accreditation scheme or Eco schools, these activities could count towards achieving your next level of accreditation.

How Can My School Get Involved?

Although today (18 May 2017) is the big day; it doesn’t matter if you have only just found out. The resources and ideas can be used at any time – every day can be an outdoor classroom day… and you can always sign up for next year!