Outdoor classrooms: Should SHS have them?

A teacher teaches students outdoors.


A teacher teaches students outdoors.

Angeli Thompson, Editor and Chief

When thinking about outdoor classrooms what would you picture? Being outside surrounded by bugs and creepy crawlies, or would you picture the sun shining on your face surrounded by the sound of birds chirping? Regardless of what you think outdoor classrooms are, they were made to benefit students’ mental health and academic performance in school. ADHD is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, meaning kids can’t sit still. Having the benefit of going outside gives students the opportunity to stretch their legs, move around and breathe fresh air.

I know from personal experience, sitting inside a classroom all day when it’s absolutely gorgeous outside can be super frustrating. But who learns math outside? There’s no need to go outside, it’s not like it’s science class. Well with outdoor classrooms, it doesn’t matter what’s being taught, and it doesn’t matter why you have to be outside.

But what exactly is an outdoor classroom? Outdoor classrooms are essentially learning that takes place outside. An outdoor classroom can range from a class taking their book bags outside underneath an awning at the park, or gathering together on the bleachers outside.

Outdoor classrooms can also be places for children to go to learn, that aren’t necessarily a school. There are playgrounds with learning equipment and things for children to build or put together that uses thinking and problem solving.

One of the physical benefits of the outdoor classroom is the development of a healthy attitude towards living an active lifestyle. By playing outdoors regularly children are encouraged to engage in regular physical activities with their peers. By enjoying outdoor play, children begin to establish healthy habits that could help reduce their chance of struggling with health conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Solon High School (SHS) anatomy teacher Kristen Ahrens expressed how she thinks outdoor classrooms are super beneficial for students.

“Especially when spring hits, you wanna be outside,” Ahrens said. “It kind of gives an open space to do things and to talk. It’s a lot more relaxing, and the way that they can be designed can be suited for any subject in any type of learning environment. It’s super beneficial, not just mentally, but being able to get out of four walls.”

Ahrens has a history with outdoor classrooms because of her mom. Her mom passed away due to leukemia, and from that, Ahrens and the rest of her family decided to start a scholarship organization for seniors at Independence High School (IHS), who are thinking about going into teaching or the medical field.

“Part of the scholarship is where we host a race every May, A Jog Into Spring, and the money there goes to the scholarship,” Ahrens said. “It also goes into building an outdoor classroom for students. Each year we’ve added on [to the classroom], and a lot of teacher’s use it.”

When regarding outdoor classrooms at SHS, Principal Erin Short believes the high school could eventually get outdoor learning spaces in the future.

“I have had discussions with individuals from [the] central office and will continue to work with them to create outdoor spaces for our students and staff to utilize,” Short said. “I think an added benefit would be the opportunity for the Solon community to use the space when school is not in session.”

SHS Forensics teacher Joseph Bubonics feels having an outdoor classroom can benefit the learning environment to an extent.

“I also think it can cause another distraction to all students,” Bubonics said. “Environmental and forensics classes could benefit from it, [with] labs and projects. I think if it’s used correctly and not as an everyday thing, but as a sometimes thing, it can be very helpful.”

Even though Ahrens doesn’t teach any environmental based classes, she explained how she could use the outdoor space as a fun way to lecture.

“Lectures or going out and doing independent work. Instead of sitting at our desks doing independent work, let’s just go outside and do it.”

All in all, I feel like the stress factor that classrooms hold, being inside four walls every single day, can be a bit much sometimes. So getting out for just 40 minutes can be the difference in someone’s entire day.