Outdoor classroom experiences can lead to gains in social development. Children have been found to more easily move away from confrontation with peers in an outdoor environment. They are also less likely to display lack of cooperation, frustration, and annoyance. Even more, it was found that adults may actually relate differently to children when in an outdoor environment. This is because students are allowed to move more freely and make noise while outside, as compared to inside where they are expected to sit still and remain quiet. This allows the students to be more spontaneous and develop their social skills (Maynard and Waters, 2007, p. 257).
Not only does the outdoor classroom provide children an opportunity to investigate the natural world, it also allows for a great environment to conduct group activities where the development of knowledge can occur. Furthermore, specific skills and concepts are developed in this outdoor environment that connect with authentic, purposeful, and real-life objectives. Some examples of tasks completed to develop these skills include building dens, creating a natural pond/nature area, removing undergrowth, and crop production (Maynard and Waters, 2007, p. 258).
Students that were engaged in outdoor learning experiences became more aware of personal and social developments in their lives. Curriculum related outcomes from learning in an outdoor classroom led to increased knowledge and understanding about geography, ecology, and food production processes. It also led to individuals developing values and beliefs about the environment. And, many young people discussed the expansion of more personal skills, such as “… increased confidence, improved social skills, a greater belief in personal efficacy, and very importantly, an understanding that learning could be fun” (Dillon et al., 2005, p. 22). “Active care for the environment in adulthood is frequently associated with positive experiences of nature in childhood” (Chawla, 2007, p. 1). Also, with model testing and cross-validation procedures, it was found that “childhood participation with nature may set an individual on a trajectory toward adult environmentalism” (Wells & Lekies, 2006, p. 1). These are very good reasons for building an outdoor classroom where students may experience nature and even care for some of the upkeep of the outdoor classroom, and thus foster pro-environmental attitudes when they are adults in the future.
There are significant benefits to both students and teachers with the use of education outside the classroom. “Academic fieldwork clearly enhances the teaching of science and geography, but other subjects such as history, art and design, and citizenship can also be brought to life” with outdoor instruction (Dillon et al., 2005, p. 9). Outdoor group activities can help develop a child’s social skills, which may lead him/her to obtain a higher amount of self-confidence. It also allows both students and teachers to break free from the typical monotonous day-to-day activities within a brick-and-mortar school building. Students who may not normally have the opportunity to experience outdoor environments may do so with an outdoor classroom in an educational setting.