Jessica Rowe encourages schools to learn and play outdoors for Outdoor Classroom Day

Jessica Rowe is the 2018 ambassador for Outdoor Classroom Day, presented by Nature Pay and OMO. The nationwide campaign encourages schools to learn and play outdoors and rediscover nature.

From the official media release:

Playing and learning outdoors improves children’s academic progress, their happiness and connection to the environment, according to a new review of more than 100 studies from around the world.

Associate Professor Tonia Grayfrom theCentre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University said the Muddy Hands report, including a survey of more than 700 teachers, confirmed the benefits of the outdoors for children.

“When children play and learn outdoors, they are calmer, more confident, and more open to learning,” she said.

“They also show improvements in social skills, imagination, creativity, teamwork, concentration and behaviour, and yet less than one in six primary school children learn outdoors each day, and two in three spend under an hour playing outdoors every day in Australia.”

On Thursday 1 November, 300,000 children are expected to take lessons outside for Outdoor Classroom Day - a global movement in response to the decline in children’s time outdoors which is less than maximum security prisoners. 

Outdoor Classroom Day was founded in 2011 by British NGO Project Dirt and was launched in Australia in 2017 by not-for-profit organisation Nature Play, with support from OMO.

Jessica Rowe AM, journalist, author, proud ‘Crap Housewife’ and mother of two is this year’s Outdoor Classroom Day ambassador.

If you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense. All of us feel better when we’re outdoors!” she said.

“Despite being pegged as an ‘outdoorsy’ nation, we’re not,” Ms Rowe said.

“Overscheduling of kids’ lives, safety concerns and technology are getting in the way of the simple things - like free, unstructured play. As a mum, I understand how busy out lives can be, but we need to reconnect with the joy of playing outdoors. And Outdoor Classroom Day is a simple and sensational way to start that process.”

“We have all the research that shows the benefits of playing and learning outdoors. We need to start asking ourselves more often: Can we be doing this outside?”

Nature Play Australia CEO Griffin Longley said modern children spend more time indoors than any other generation in history, but the pendulum was starting to swing back to a more balanced experience of childhood with more than 1,500 Australian schools and early learning centres already signed up for Outdoor Classroom Day.

“The best outcome for our kids is time and space for playful learning and meaningful play,” he said.

“Outdoor Classroom Day is a chance to celebrate and inspire outdoor play and learning in our schools so it can become part of everyday in the future.” 

Mr Longley said involvement in Outdoor Classroom Day could be anything from taking a single lesson outdoors, to using the outdoors to deliver on core curriculum areas throughout the year. 

Parents can encourage their child’s school to sign up at www.outdoorclassroomday.com.au.

The report finds when it comes to Australian schools, the data shows there’s a big difference across the states in opportunities for outdoor learning and play. Teachers are feeling the pressures of curriculum work, and face the challenge of parents who perceive outdoor learning as time not well spent. 

Andrew Gaul