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What is an Open-Air Classroom?

Open-air classrooms allow students to enjoy nature as they learn.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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An open-air classroom is a classroom which is located outside, allowing students to come into contact with nature as they learn. Many open-air classrooms are designed for hands-on activities, although potentially any subject could be taught in an open-air classroom. There are a variety of advantages to teaching in an open-air classroom, not least of which is the fact that you can take an open-air classroom anywhere, which can be extremely useful in the developing world.

In the classic sense, an open-air classroom is a classroom where students engage in hands-on learning related to nature topics. For example, an organic gardening class might be held in a garden, allowing students to grow plants while they talk about gardening issues and organic culture in general. Open air classrooms can also be used to teach students about various biomes, and to encourage direct interaction with the environment.

However, an open-air classroom can also be used for more abstract subjects. For example, students could be seated in a garden while they talk about a variety of topics, from philosophy to the history of herbal medicine. Many people find that open-air learning is beneficial, allowing students to learn in a pleasant, healthy environment, and an open-air classroom can encourage enthusiasm about learning and going to school. Many students also learn better with a supply of fresh, healthy air, although sometimes the outdoor environment can be distracting.

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In the developing world, many classes are taught in open-air classrooms, often because a community lacks a designated school. The outdoor environment is also sometimes more pleasant than an indoor location, allowing students to take advantage of shade while they stretch out and get a chance to breathe fresh air. The space of an open-air classroom also allows students to engage in a variety of activities without worrying about space constraints, creating a more fluid and dynamic educational environment.

On occasion, teachers in traditional schools may choose to take their students outside for a day in an outdoor classroom. In schools which have appropriate spaces, these days can be great treats for students, giving them a chance to get outside the confining and familiar environment of the classroom to absorb new material which may be more interesting since it is taught and discussed outside. Many workshops and retreats with a natural or holistic focus also offer open-air learning to students of all ages.

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