Designing Outdoor Learning Spaces That Engage and Inspire

2021 03 18 Outdoor Commons 1 — Health, Kids

Courtyards and other outside places are important components in how a college functions—and they shouldn’t just be an afterthought when designing college buildings.

With cautious preparing, schools can make helpful use of these communal spaces to enable build the suitable college culture and even help finding out beyond the classroom. In truth, the pandemic has established the worth of these spaces in supporting higher-high-quality teaching and finding out.

As schools have attempted to spread students out to sustain secure social distancing, quite a few have taken benefit of outside places to build added finding out spaces. K-12 leaders have identified this procedure significantly much easier with spaces that are intentionally developed to serve quite a few functions—such as empowering students to engage in continuous finding out.

Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Outdoor spaces provide quite a few possibilities to extend finding out, and analysis suggests there are each educational and wellness-associated advantages to finding out outdoors. For instance, breathing fresh air can clear students’ minds and enable them believe by rising the quantity of oxygen their brains get. Being outdoors can also lessen pressure and boost students’ emotional well-being.

Outdoor spaces can be equipped with comfy, climate-resistant seating to extend finding out.

One study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identified that students paid more interest in class immediately after an outside lesson. Other research have linked outside finding out to decreased pressure, more enjoyment of college, and longer retention of data.

When designing outside spaces, it is significant to provide quite a few seating alternatives for diverse group sizes. Use climate-resistant components that can withstand the components, such as NeoLounge2 round, square, or bench-style ottomans that are developed for indoor or outside use.

Also, believe about mobility: Do you want students to be capable to move outside tables or furnishings? “If not, consider anchoring tables and using attached seating,” says Ofelia Gonzalez, an interior designer for School Specialty.

Smart Design Elements

When designing and equipping outside spaces that can inspire finding out, right here are 4 core principles to hold in thoughts.


For schools to get the most worth out of outside spaces, these should really be multipurpose spaces that can help quite a few diverse sorts of activities. Equipping these spaces with a wide variety of furnishings sorts enables for quite a few makes use of. Choosing agile, modular furnishings that can be configured in various approaches tends to make it uncomplicated to convert spaces from one particular use to one more, or to build versatile groupings of diverse sizes.


If students are going to reflect on what they’ve discovered or continue a discussion that started in class, they will need comfy and quickly accessible areas to sit down and speak, study, study, or appear up data. Outdoor space should really be furnished with comfy, attractive seating that draws students to the space and encourages them to keep and speak or do work involving classes or immediately after college.


For outside finding out to grow to be a reality, students will need tools and components to help continuous finding out. Sidewalk chalk operates effectively for writing on outside surfaces, due to the fact it washes off quickly — and mini-whiteboards can be used to brainstorm and share concepts.

2021 03 18 Outdoor Commons 3 1 — Health, Kids
Students are more probably to use these outside places for finding out if these spaces really feel comfy and inviting.

Will students be taking laptops or tablets outdoors to study or study? If so, believe about how you can meet students’ energy demands with strategically placed electrical outlets—such as covered outlets embedded inside tabletops, chairs, and other furnishings. Make certain WiFi coverage extends to these outside spaces as effectively.


Students are most probably to use outside spaces as extensions of the classroom if they really feel inspired to continue their finding out. Schools can enable foster a culture of continuous finding out by producing courtyards and other informal finding out spaces intellectually engaging and stimulating.

For instance, equip these places with furnishings, artwork, decorations, and age-proper tools that inspire curiosity. Objects such as sculptures and manipulatives can encourage students to believe, reflect, and discover.

To study how School Specialty can enable you design and style and equip outside spaces that inspire and help continuous finding out, contact us today.

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