Myth busting: Why bad weather isn’t an obstacle to outdoor learning

Oh, the weather outside is frightful — but why should that stop you taking the classroom outdoors? Let’s bust one of the most pervasive myths about outdoor learning…

Here in the UK, we like to grumble about the Great British Weather. It’s either too hot or too cold, too wet or too windy — but is bad weather really an obstacle to outdoor learning and play? As winter approaches, let’s untangle the biggest myth about taking the classroom outdoors.

Children wearing wet weather clothing, laughing with delight as they play in their rainy school grounds.

Myth: Bad weather is an obstacle to outdoor learning and play

Fact check: This simply isn’t true!

It isn’t the weather which presents an obstacle — it’s a lack of preparation for it. As our CEO, Carley Sefton, says:

The only consistent thing about the British weather is its inconsistency. We are luckier than many when it comes to our climate – it’s pretty much safe to go outdoors all year round if we have the right clothing.

Of course, safety comes first — we wouldn’t want anyone learning outdoors during last summer’s heatwave! However, a bit of rain (or even snow!) can present a fantastic opportunity to take your class outside.

Not convinced? Here are five reasons to take the classroom outdoors whatever the weather — along with some helpful tips for doing so!


1. Children don’t worry about the weather like we do

Cast your mind back to your own school days… Do you remember the disappointment of being kept inside at break time due to wet weather?

The truth is, it isn’t the children who worry about the weather — it’s the adults! As we grow older, snow becomes something to dread. It blocks roads, stops trains, and causes accidents; and we’re all happier when it’s gone, thank you very much! However, for many children, snow is a magical, once in a generation event that presents endless opportunities for fun.

For the more uncertain members of your class, it’s important to set the tone and help your pupils understand what to expect from their experience outdoors. By framing outdoor learning as an exciting challenge and an opportunity to try something new, you’ll build your pupils’ resilience — and perhaps your own!

So, next time you think the weather is too poor to take your class outdoors, consider whether your pupils would agree. After all…

2. Wet weather clothing exists for this purpose

As the saying goes: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’!

With the right clothing, no weather is an obstacle! For the best outdoor learning experience, all children need appropriate clothing for rain and mud. Depending on the age of your class, this could include anything from light rain jackets to waterproof coveralls.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that high quality wet weather clothing is out of reach for many parents. Therefore, consider factoring durable, weather-appropriate clothing for the whole class into the school budget.

Need some help persuading the senior leadership team? Take a look at our guidance on finding or funding clothing, or use your Local School Nature Grant to get hold of some waterproof clothing or ground cover kits. Alternatively, become an LtL member and gain access to exclusive discounts on suppliers of wet weather clothing and equipment — along with 50% off our online training courses!

Oh, and don’t forget to ensure that you’re kitted out for the colder weather, too!


3. You can weatherproof your school grounds, too

You don’t need to rely on wellies alone to keep your pupils warm and dry. Indeed, there are more than a few simple and cost-effective ways to develop your school grounds for outdoor learning and play.

Ground cover kits are ideal for sitting on damp ground, shelters (either permanent or temporary) will protect heads from the rain, and outdoor seating like hay bales or logs can be covered with tarpaulin when not in use. Don’t forget about waterproof storage for your outdoor classroom!

A range of outdoor equipment is available via our Local School Nature Grants programme — take a look at our tips for writing a winning grant application!


4. Being outdoors is good for us, no matter the season

Amongst other things, winter is often associated with colds, flu, and other illnesses. However, it isn’t exposure to cold, wet weather that causes viruses to spread. In fact, as the last few years have shown us, we’re much more likely to catch a bug in a poorly ventilated indoor environment.

By taking the classroom outdoors, pupils and their teachers can enjoy some fresh air and Vitamin D — especially important during the darker months of the year!

Aside from the physical health benefits of getting outdoors, it can really boost mental health and wellbeing, and may even help to support children through times of uncertainty. It’s a win-win situation!


5. Different weather provides unique learning opportunities

The change in seasons brings with it a whole host of new experiences which you can share with your pupils in the outdoor classroom.

In the early years especially, splashing in puddles, feeling the water touch your cheeks, and listening to the sound of raindrops on umbrella make-shift shelter can be a magical sensory learning experience. In this sense, wet weather presents the perfect opportunity for activities like Forest Bathing or a Sound Walk.

However, you can use the weather to support curriculum-based learning, too. The showery, blustery morning following a day of glorious sunshine is a chance to teach your pupils about weather predictions and forecasts, for example. Alternatively, take your pupils sailing, like this creative member of our Accredited Network!

Children wearing bright red waterproof coveralls laughing in their rainy school grounds.

Discover our seasonal outdoor lesson ideas

Take a look at our outdoor lesson ideas for some inspiration on how to take learning outside come rain or shine. You’ll even discover some created with rainy days in mind!

For more outdoor learning support, take a look at our school stage hubs for early yearsprimary, and secondary where you’ll find everything you need to get outdoors with your class. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest outdoor learning news and opportunities direct to your inbox!

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Two secondary school pupils survey a tree in the school grounds as part of a climate education project.Carley Sefton, CEO of Learning through Landscapes, laughing in the rain during the photoshoot for the Teaching the Primary Curriculum Outdoors book.