The 5 Key Elements to Successful Learning Outside the Classroom

Whenever we run our learning outside the classroom workshops for teachers we are told by staff teams that their greatest challenge is that of time.

Trying to squeeze a meaningful learning experience into a 40 minute period (or sometimes even less) can be challenging enough in a classroom environment. However, you then compound the challenge by taking the lesson outside with additional pressures of travel and set up.

Consider the following 5 steps/elements when planning and executing your sessions in the outdoors. This will enable them to have power and impact with your learners leaving you all inspired and enthused to do more! Find ways to share your good ideas and great practice with your colleagues

Introduction (the hook)
How to introduce the topic, in the classroom or elsewhere? Perhaps you might want to change the space before you do this to build a sense of anticipation and adventure. The latter is a seriously powerful concept for children and so framing each outdoor excursion as an ‘adventure’ can be a marvellous tool.

How will this promote interest and intrigue in your students? What ideas can you incorporate to create ‘the hook’? Think of examples of how you might achieve this.

Getting there …… (and back again!)
Often we just travel from our indoor to our outdoor locations as quickly as possible focusing purely on how to keep everyone together and safe. We might therefore miss opportunities for ambulatory activities. The things to do en route.

What ideas can you generate that will add learning, richness and value to the getting there and back? For example walking and talking in pairs about a question you set to give context to the lesson, asking them to find items en route, notice certain things or record observations. Use this valuable time to support your learning agenda.

The main activity
What are the key ingredients for a successful lesson/session in the outdoors? How might your teaching be different to a conventional classroom lesson? What needs to have happened beforehand to create successful learning outcomes for your learners?


Often the part of the session or teaching that we don’t leave enough time for is the ending. Find ways in which you can structure and manage simple but engaging and effective reviews to follow an outdoor learning session/lesson. How does the outdoor environment and an experiential approach allow us to check understanding of learning, gaps in knowledge and the further teaching required? 

Follow up opportunities and assessment
Discuss and identify ways in which the outdoor learning can be continued indoors. How will an effective assessment be made of the effectiveness of the session? How will great ideas and good practice be captured and recorded? Give examples of how learning can become cross curricular so as to add more richness to the learning.