Starting an Outdoor Learning Center: How VIP TO GO Can Enhance the Experience

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Children learning outdoors

Starting an Outdoor Learning Center: How VIP TO GO Can Enhance the Experience

When it comes to maintaining the mental and physical health of the youth, especially children, playing outside tops the list. The ability to freely move around in an outdoor learning environment is what everyone needs once in a while. Therefore, as educators, focusing on building an outdoor learning center can be very beneficial.

Teachers have the responsibility to design the classroom to appeal to students for better learning. Not only that, but also there should be enough space for privacy, storage, and outdoor play groups.

Other factors to take into consideration are compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and attention to various amenities, like portable restrooms.

If you have been planning to design the perfect outdoor learning center all this time and did not know where to start, this checklist is for you. So, let’s get started.

Why Schools Need to Offer Outdoor Learning

Just as serious education is important in society, there are many situations where outdoor learning can be facilitated in a way that is feasible, giving children the benefit of learning in an environment that is stimulating and interactive.

As a school administrator or a supervisor, you are surely aware of the importance of outdoor education. Developing an outdoor learning center has many benefits for the body, mind, and soul.

   ●    Better Memory/Imagination

You may argue that schools offer field trips and excursions, but those do not happen frequently. Having a more engaged classroom in a natural outdoor setting can have a tremendous positive impact on young minds. This is a scientifically proven theory, and a report published in the University of Michigan News supports that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after individuals spent an hour interacting with nature.

On the other hand, students spending most of their time in an enclosed environment with limited lighting and fixed patterns can restrict this.

   ●    Enhanced Motivation

Outdoor activities have been proven to drive motivation even in adults, not just children. Maintaining an outdoor learning center can keep the educational environment relaxed and playful. This will also keep the stress at bay while retaining the competitive spirit.

   ●    Health Improvement

The body needs some stimulation just as the mind does. Providing sufficient scope for physical activity is easier in an outdoor learning center. As a result, you can ensure better health and a stronger immune system for young learners.

   ●    Improved Communication Skills

As team sports and outdoor activities require a lot of collaboration, it helps build a sense of teamwork among children. This way, they learn faster to communicate better with each other and solve problems together, resulting in a healthier relationship.

Children enjoying outdoor activities and teamwork

   ●    Psychological Benefit

There has been a noticeable improvement in overall behavior in children and young adults when they spend time outdoors. As COVID-19 forced everyone to stay indoors for a long time due to the lockdown, the most significant impact was observed in children and young adults, who exhibited higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

In general, reducing screen time and increasing green time is the best environment for helping young learners maintain a prime emotional state.

Limitations/Challenges of This Type of Learning Arrangement

Now comes the big question – on a practical level, how does one set up an outdoor learning center? Whether you want to run an outdoor preschool curriculum or a nature program for children, you will face various challenges. Even though they can be overcome, you first need to address the issues and structure a setup that overcomes these limitations.

   ●    The Weather

When organizing an outdoor learning center, the first challenge you will face is the weather. Since students will be outdoors and not in a sheltered environment, special arrangements need to be made for these weather fluctuations. This includes implementing the right apparel for outdoor activities, sunscreen for staying under the sun for long, raincoats and a covered roof for rain, etc. Also, you need to consider the possibility of the weather taking a turn for the worst, where you’ll need an indoor space that can accommodate the group.

Children dressed for rainy weather

   ●    Natural Hazards

Another consideration when setting up preschool nature play is the possibility of hazards in the natural environment, such as uneven ground, thorns, and bushes, insect stings, etc. These factors go beyond a change in the climate. There will always be some unavoidable circumstances when conducting outdoor classes for kids. Although you cannot always control or prevent extreme conditions, you can take precautions to avoid them. You should also have an emergency response plan in place and ensure that staff are well-trained on basic safety protocols. A safety kit should be kept on hand in a well-marked outdoor location.

   ●    Compliance with Health and Safety Regulations

As teachers responsible for the health and safety of the children, you need to implement specific strict security regulations to protect the children and your school administration from violence. For this, you can follow guidelines by the Federal Commission on School Safety. Local school leaders, teachers, and parents must work together to address their own unique challenges and develop case-specific solutions.

   ●    Additional Paperwork

Taking the children outside and developing an outdoor learning center means filling out lots of additional paperwork. This includes everything from health and safety guidelines to consent forms signed by parents, evaluation forms, etc. This challenge can easily be overcome by hiring additional support staff to ensure all required documents are prepared, signed, and filed properly.

   ●    Meeting Curriculum Requirements

Despite the many opportunities that an outdoor learning center provides, it may cause problems while teaching some subjects. Teaching the kids complex subjects like mathematics or science outside while maintaining the curriculum requirements is challenging for any school. Children can easily get distracted during classes. Take steps to make sure you have a portion of your outdoor learning center that is geared towards focused learning, with classroom props that support visual demonstration of information.

   ●    Supervision

As long as children are at school, their safety is the responsibility of the school. However, that responsibility becomes more complex in an outdoor learning center where the environment is not enclosed within walls. Therefore, before the opening of your learning center, take time to survey your setup for weaknesses in the setup, where intruders may be able to enter or where a student possibly could escape unnoticed. Install any enclosures that can help reduce those risks.

   ●    Outdoor School Furniture

As an approved outdoor education provider, you need to ensure that your outdoor educational spaces allow children to explore the natural environment. Simultaneously, the outdoor school furniture needs to withstand outdoor conditions. A simple setup like a bookshelf, reading cushions, and plastic clipboards are a simple way to begin. You can incorporate more complex tools as you progress and realize the requirements.

   ●    Sanitation and Hygiene

In consideration of the fact that children tend to take more toilet breaks than adults, you’ll need a setup for outdoor bathrooms that is in close proximity to your learning center, so students can independently take bathroom breaks while still under your supervision. To cater to this need, VIP To Go can help with mobile bathroom options.

How to Set Up an Outdoor Learning Center Despite These Challenges

There is no need to feel disheartened because of the challenges mentioned here. These are just some factors you need to consider when designing the proper school garden or outdoor learning center. When you intentionally create a space for outdoor classroom training, it requires thinking beyond the needs of a conventional classroom to structure a setup that is fresh and yet practical.  

   ●    Network with Others for Resources/Curriculum Plans

You need the right curriculum resources for your outdoor learning center that will help develop strong lesson plans that let the staff work with the children to meet curriculum goals while facilitating learning that takes into account the nature of an outdoor environment. With proper planning, the outdoor environment can serve to enhance the children’s learning by without causing distraction for the children as they maintain focus.

Outdoor classroom equipment

   ●    Ensure You Are Choosing the Right Location

Choosing the right location is very important for an outdoor learning center to avoid any hassle later. You do not need to spend a lot on a landscape designer. You need to consider factors like easy accessibility, safety, and protection from natural hazards.

   ●    Consider the Shade

You can utilize the surrounding tree cover as a shade without spending any money. Even the parks around school buildings get shade from the construction. You can even choose to install shade sails or simple overhead structures. This will provide ample protection from the sun’s scorching heat and shelter during sudden rainfall.

You may need a permit and inspection for installing fabric shade sails, so be aware of local regulations.

   ●    Need for Outdoor Restrooms

Having outdoor restrooms is necessary not just for the kids but also for the staff and teaching assistants. If you want to make this more convenient and budget-friendly, portable toilet trailers are the best way to go.

The restroom trailer interior will be sufficient for all, and can be easily accessed by children via steps. For very young children who may require easier accessibility via a ramp and low handrails, ADA- compliant trailers can meet those needs.

Since pricing on portable restroom trailer prices can be quite costly, you may choose to consider portable toilet trailers for rent. By choosing to rent outdoor restrooms from  a restroom trailer vendor like VIP To Go, you will receive regular maintenance as well as strong support and servicing if needed.

restroom trailer rentals parked outside

You don’t necessarily have to choose a luxury bathroom trailer rental either. Simply search for “porta-potty with sink rental near me.”

This is made even easier thanks to a great selection of portable restrooms that you can find on the VIP TO GO website.

Two-station restroom trailer

Of course, the type of portable restrooms you choose should depend on your setting and space. To learn more about VIP’s portable restrooms, log on to the site for more information.

Final Words

The attempt to teach outdoors of the confines of a classroom is a unique approach. While the benefits of learning outside the classroom are many, preparing for this setup takes creative solutions and careful planning.

Although addressing the myriad aspects of an outdoor learning center takes time, once you have the outdoor learning support, outdoor classroom furniture, and portable restroom trailers in place, you and your students will be able to reap the rewards.

So, get your checklist ready and start designing!

mobile restroom trailer outside building


1.     How do outdoor learning programs help students?

An urban outdoor education program can significantly impact the emotional, intellectual, and social-behavioral development of children. The play support curriculum lets young learners accumulate confidence and motor skills and help them solve problems better as well with real-world tutoring.

2.     What equipment do you need for starting an outdoor learning center?

To set up school in an outdoor environment some outdoor-friendly furniture, like outdoor classroom chairs, desks and shelves, and other outdoor learning support, will be needed. In addition to considering preschool outdoor classroom equipment, keep in mind that you’ll need ample space for an outdoor learning center. You will also need to make arrangements for ample sanitation.

3.     How convenient are portable restrooms for open air learning centers?

Portable restrooms are highly convenient and also let you keep the environment clean. Without requiring any permanent construction, mobile restrooms can be rented on an ongoing basis. With running water, heating and a/c, multiple stalls, and an updated decor, mobile restroom trailers can be the perfect solution to the restroom needs of  your outdoor learning center.

ADA compliant restrooms