Take your music class outside and discover the social-emotional benefits of the outdoor classroom
The Outdoor Music Classroom launched today on ARTS:LIVE to support teachers to plan, set-up, and explore the benefits of teaching music in an outdoor classroom. But, what is an outdoor classroom? And what are the benefits?
What is an outdoor classroom?
The “Outdoor Classroom” is any outside space where learning takes places. It allows students to interact with nature and offer opportunities for play-based and multi-sensory activities. Whether the space is purpose-built or improvised, there are many benefits to using Outdoor Classrooms, for both students and teachers.
The idea of the Outdoor Classroom bloomed in Australia in the 1970s and 80s along with ideas about play-based learning and outdoor education. The focus of the research that drove this boom was on the social-emotional benefits that the outdoors had for students.
Research has shown that being in nature reduces stress1, restores our ability to focus2 and improves immune function in children as well as adults3. If you consider the outdoor classroom through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs4, it seems obvious that a student who feels safe, calm and alert will be able to learn better.
Furthermore, outdoor classroom experiences, have been linked with:
- Increased joy and happiness for both students and staff
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved memory, focus and problem-solving abilities
- Improved behaviour and cooperation skills
- Improved physical health, coordination and eyesight.
In an Australian context, it can also be useful to consider the benefits of the Outdoor Classroom from a First Nations People’s perspective and the positive impact this can have on the learning of Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners.
In the “8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning” framework, developed by Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta for the NSW Department of Education, the learning process is summarised as:
“Tell a story. Make a plan. Think and do. Draw it. Take it outside. Try a new way. Watch first, then do. Share it with others.”5
Creating “Land-Links” is one of the 8 Ways of learning, connecting students and their learning to the land around them and to real-world applications of their learning.
The Song Room’s ARTS:LIVE platform supports teachers to embed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Histories and Cultures cross curriculum priority through outdoor music learning experiences.
How do I use an Outdoor Classroom when teaching music?
Using an Outdoor Classroom setting to teach music could be as simple as taking a lesson already planned for indoors into the outdoor context, however we can create richer learning experiences if we keep the learning environment in mind when planning lessons.
As an example, it may be impractical to transfer a lesson intended for an indoor setting, that utilises heavy equipment and audio-visual equipment into an outdoor setting. However, a lesson that relies on singing songs and body percussion could easily be transported to an outdoor context.
Consider activities that you couldn’t do in your usual classroom setting due to space constraints, noise constraints (perhaps your school has open-plan classrooms), or mess constraints. What could you do outside that is bigger, noisier and messier than you could do in your usual setting? What experiences can you create outdoors that you couldn’t create for your students indoors?
If you’d like more ideas to get you started, take a look at The Outdoor Music Classroom on ARTS:LIVE. These resources guide teachers to set up and teach music in an ‘outdoor classroom.’ They also include lesson plans for composing seasonal poems inspired by the sounds of Country.
So spark joy and wonder in your students! Plan your outdoor classroom today.
Find out more about the benefits of arts learning here.
- Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T. et al. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environ Health Prev Med 15, 18 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9
- Berman, M., Jonides, J. & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19121124/
- Kuo M. How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Front Psychol. 2015 Aug 25;6:1093. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26379564/
- Maslow, A. H., (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0054346
- Yunkaporta, Dr. T, Aboriginal Pedagogy: 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning, NSW Department of Education, https://www.8ways.online/