The Benefits of Learning Outside of the Traditional Classroom

By Kaldia Nigh

A school day normally consists of one teacher with around 30 students sitting inside a classroom for approximately 7 hours out of the day, 5 days a week. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that learning does not always have to stay inside of the classroom. Learning can happen outside of the classroom in many different forms. What subjects can be taught outside of the classroom you may ask. Well to name a few: language arts, social studies, science, physical education, art, and math. The possibilities are endless.
Learning outside the formal classroom can be as extravagant as taking the children on a full day fieldtrip, or as little as taking the students outside to observe something in its natural form. All forms of outside learning can be extremely beneficial for our students.

I will begin by discussing the positive effects of creating and cultivating a classroom garden. In a study conducted by Fisher-Maltese and Zimmerman (2015), they found that students who participated in real life gardens in order to learn science content were able to develop positive attitudes about the environment, as well as developed empathy. Not only do students develop a more positive attitude towards the environment, according to Skelly and Bradley (2007), students develop more positive attitudes towards science in general. The great news is that even if you do not have the funds in order to implement a large class garden, any garden experience will impact your students (Skelly & Bradley, 2007).

Fieldtrips are a wonderful way to get your students out of the classroom and into the outside world. Fieldtrips can consist of museums, art galleries, aquariums, parks, gardens, science centers, etc. The great thing about fieldtrips is that you can take your students on a field trip that addresses so many different subject areas. These include: science, social studies, art, etc. In a study conducted by Tenenbaum, Rappolt-Schlichtmann, and Zanger (2004), they found that when you combined hands on activities in science in the classroom and on a fieldtrip, children showed an increase of enjoyment in the sciences, as well as increased content knowledge.
Students who participate in fieldtrips need to have teachers that put in a lot of preparation time beforehand (Griffin, 2004; Morentin, M. & Guisasola, J., 2014). The students learn more and have a higher satisfaction when the teachers provide pre-fieldtrip lessons where the students learn background content knowledge (Morentin, M. & Guisasola, J., 2014). This idea can also be true for parents wanting to take their children on informational outings or fieldtrips.

We as teachers or even parents need to realize that our students need to and should be outside. They are able to learn directly from the world and hands on experiences instead of just from a book. We need to make a conscious effort in order to integrate outdoor learning in our lesson plans and our day-to-day activities. Remember learning outside can address almost any subject area that you please. Not to mention the idea that the world is our homework.

• Take your students outside to look at insects or plant life. Let them observe a bird’s nest from a safe distance.
• Have the students go outside and create a piece of artwork based on something they see outside.
• Have the students count and add up trees in the area, or an object of your choosing.
• Have students reenact a topic of social studies, or even take your reading circles outside.
• The most important word in all of the previous words is outside!

Fisher-Maltese, C. & Zimmerman, T.D. (2015). A garden-based approach to teaching life science produces shifts towards student’ attitudes towards the environment. International Journal of Science & Environmental Education, 10(1), 51-66. doi: 10.12973/ijese.2015.230a
Griffin, J. (2004). Research on students and museums: looking more closely at the students in school groups. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Advance Online Publication. doi 10.1002/sce.20018
Morentin, M. & Guisasola, J. (2014). The role of science museum field trips in the primary teacher preparation. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13, 965-990.
Skelly, S.M.  & Bradley, J.C. (2007). The growing phenomenon of school gardens: Measuring their variation and their affect on students’ sense of responsibility and attitudes toward science and the environment. Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 6, 97-104.
Tenenbaum, H. R., Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G., & Zanger, V. V. (2004). Children’s learning about water in a museum and in the classroom. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 40-58. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2004.01.008