Boosting social and emotional learning in schools

Posted on | Posted in Education

A well-rounded education for children in the UK comes down to a lot more than just academics. Social and emotional learning, also known as SEL, is an important part of a child’s development, helping them build critical life skills.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of incorporating SEL into the curriculum. Today we’re looking closer at SEL; what is it, what are its benefits for children, and how can you use it in your school to boost children’s development?

What is SEL?

Social and emotional learning refers to developing core life skills and competencies that help build life skills. It helps individuals learn how to recognise and manage their emotions, show concern for others, grow positive relationships, make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations.

By proactively teaching and supporting the development of these skills, SEL offers a foundation for better performance at school, both socially and academically. Ultimately, it helps children navigate the world more effectively and build strong, meaningful relationships with others. SEL can come in many forms outside of standard lessons, including team-building games, community projects, or spending more time learning and playing outdoors.

The benefits of outdoor learning for SEL

Rainbow coloured playground canopy

Combining SEL with outdoor learning has a wealth of benefits, from emotional and social to cognitive. This includes:

  • Improved confidence
    Being outdoors, especially in nature, has been shown to improve children’s self-esteem and sense of worth. Having the opportunity to spend time outdoors and learn new outdoor-specific skills builds confidence and provides children with a sense of accomplishment.
  • Reduced stress
    Exposure to natural environments has a calming effect on people, reducing stress and anxiety levels while promoting mindfulness and awareness of the present moment. This helps children create a great headspace for learning.
  • Increased motivation
    Children love to be active and burn energy, and they’re inherently more motivated to learn when they can be physically active. Hands-on learning environments, particularly outdoors and out of the traditional classroom setting, make them more inspired to learn.
  • Communication skills
    A lot of outdoor activities in schools require both effective communication and teamwork – skills that all children should be encouraged to develop. SEL learning outdoors helps children build important interpersonal skills through shared experiences with their classmates.

Ideas for outdoor SEL activities

Given its many great benefits, all schools should be encouraged to incorporate more SEL into their curriculums. There are countless ways you can incorporate outdoor time and activities into SEL learning to help children boost their development.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Mindfulness walks
  • Cooperative games and problem-solving challenges
  • Gardening and planting in a school garden
  • Outdoor drama, storytelling or performances
  • Art classes like painting and drawing
  • Team construction projects like bridge or shelter building
  • Outdoor science lessons
  • Encouraging nature journaling

The role of canopies in outdoor learning

One of the biggest barriers facing schools that would like to offer more outdoor learning is the unpredictability of the British weather. Rain, wind and snow can make being outdoors unpleasant. In the case of younger children, it can be disruptive to their learning experience. In the UK’s climate, relying on good weather for outdoor learning can hugely decrease the number of opportunities for outdoor lessons, potentially limiting the chance for children to enjoy SEL and learn key life skills.

By installing a sheltered canopy system over an outdoor area, schools can easily create a protected space for outdoor teaching and activities that’s usable all year round, come rain or shine. Canopies allow teachers and students alike to embrace the many benefits of outdoor learning without worrying about the weather forecast.

Additionally, a canopy can actually help extend your usable learning space at school by creating another “classroom” that helps alleviate overcrowding issues. They can even be used for additional seating at lunchtimes.

When it comes to creating the ideal outdoor learning environment, Canopies UK has you covered – literally. As experts in canopy design and installation for schools across the UK, we can help you find the perfect sheltered solution that helps you maximise outdoor SEL activities all year round.

Our wide range of canopy systems are tailored to meet each school’s unique needs and requirements. From freestanding to wall-mounted, they come in all sizes to create covered spaces for outdoor classrooms, play areas, dining zones, walkways, entrances and more. With customisable colours to match your school’s aesthetic and a durable Melinex gel-coated roof that protects against wind, rain, snow and harmful UV rays, our canopy systems are an all-weather outdoor extension that help you embrace outdoor SEL learning.

Are you ready to transform your school’s outdoor space and maximise outdoor learning? Get in touch to discuss your requirements, or schedule a free site survey and take the first step towards enhancing your school’s environment.