Fordingbridge - Outside Learning for Health
August 2020

Over recent weeks, we have helped an influx in UK educators realising the potential of their outside space. Playgrounds, MUGAs and unused external areas are being prepared and surveyed for canopy installations so they can be transformed into covered ‘open’ spaces suitable for use throughout the year. Canopies such as ours are designed to protect users from both rain and UV, creating truly all-weather areas, like those shown here.

The benefits of outside learning are well documented, with both the Department for Education and teaching unions such as the NUT highlighting the emotional, cognitive and behavioral gains outdoor classrooms provide. Perhaps not bought to the public eye quite as directly, until recently, are the more direct positives for health.

Covering a MUGA or playground to allow full access to sport when it is raining is a clear benefit, but it does not finish there. These covered areas have the flexibility to play multiple roles for a number of classes, all in a fresh and open environment. While one section of the playground may be hosting a science lesson, another may be in use for art or environmental studies. Not only do our larger canopies create cost effective additional learning space, but they also help address the moot point of social distancing in schools.

The New York Times have recently posted an article highlighting interesting points from the turn of the 20th century, where Rhode Island doctors developed the idea of outside learning to mitigate transmission, not only between children, but also via the educators who taught them. The image above, taken from the article, clearly shows pupils and teachers adapted to a wider opportunity for learning. This system sadly fell out of fashion due to the harsh winters in New York, but much of America is looking to copy European countries and reintroduce the possibility. It just needs to be implemented well and while such structures will serve a purpose now, if chosen correctly and engineered thoroughly, they will continue to deliver those benefits to students for decades.

For 55 years Fordingbridge structures have been designed and manufactured in-house in our West Sussex facility. This allows us to provide an industry leading 25 year guarantee on our canopies, as testimony to our confidence in our design and craft.