The benefits gained by taking learning out of the classroom are huge. It encourages creative
thinking, accelerates understanding of subjects, boosts self-awareness, fosters respect for
others, nurtures social skills, encourages interactions and helps to build healthy peer to peer
There’s no better place to do this than in 'The Cabin' Oddly though, I struggled writing this blog, at first.
It’s not that these log cabins are hard to evangelise about! Once teachers and school managers step inside one, it practically sells itself and with school finance options available it has never been easier to add one to your school’s learning offer.
There are countless studies, reports and Ofsted recommendations to back up the benefits of getting pupils out of the stuffy classroom and into a different space.
There’s stacks of information at cabinsforschools.co.uk and even a video in which the pupils and staff at George Spencer Academy in Nottingham talk glowingly and with such heartwarming passion about “The Cloud”, the outdoor classroom that they created with their cabin.
A unique learning space helps to inspire young people
Cabins for Schools provide a unique space for today’s growing and evolving schools. They are used as ‘Reading Nooks’, as centres for forest learning, break out spaces, a place where good behaviour can be rewarded with special activities time and, increasingly, Cabins for Schools are being installed with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in mind.
Not to mention - they’re so much fun too!!!!
So why was I struggling to write this....?
My passion for the subject is immeasurable – don’t get me talking about the benefits of outdoor learning at a party! And, just like everyone at Cabins For Schools, I know my stuff too - from the team at our Nottingham show-site to the designers and craftsmen at our bespoke Derbyshire factory, to the installation team who will hand you your key - you’re dealing with time served experts who believe in the product and what it will deliver to your school and its pupils!
So why did every sentence I started to write seem to send me down a creative cul-de-sac?
I looked up from my PC. Outside the rain was lashing down onto the car park forming huge, cold, uninviting puddles. My colleagues had their heads buried in spreadsheets and reports and the only sounds were the tap-tap-tapping of keyboards, the torrential rain and the hum of the electric lights as they struggled to illuminate the office against this gloomy autumn day.
Then, it struck me....
How could I write about the benefits of getting children out of stuffy, unnaturally lit, uninspiring classrooms and into an uplifting space, when I was sat in in a stuffy, unnaturally lit, uninspiring office?
I made a brew, grabbed my laptop, put on my coat and headed out onto our show-site, straight into one of the cabins. The rain on my face had awakened my senses, breathing the fresh air, even on the short walk from my desk raised my mood; my mind and heart felt lifted.
Opening the door of the cabin and stepping inside, I breathed in the spruce aroma and felt an instant calm.
An outdoor shelter provides fresh air, thus improving concentration and learning levels
The sense of space that hits you the very first time you enter a Cabins For Schools timber hut never leaves you, no matter how many times you step into one. The trademarked sloping sides create the impression that the building is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
As the sound of the rain danced on the roof, I felt all my senses invigorated at once. The rain that had looked dismal from my office desk was now creating a lovely cosy feeling. There was both a constant drumming of raindrops and a peaceful, mindful calm. Why didn’t I come in here to work more often?
I sat on the bench that encircles the cabin and creates a wonderful ‘in the round’ learning environment and leaned back against the sloping wall and allowed my mind to wander.
I imagined myself, as a school child. I pictured leaving the fusty, airless classroom with its rows of desks that meant you mostly just saw the backs of your fellow pupils’ heads, and coming into a space like this, where you could see their faces, get eye contact. Where, rather than sitting still looking up at a teacher preaching information from the front of the room, you all sat together, sharing the learning journey, almost like colleagues with a common goal.
I leant over and opened a window to heighten the sense that I was outdoors. The natural properties of the timber create an airy space anyway; the slow grown spruce used to create the cabin’s walls breathes, creating a natural air conditioning system. Added to this, all the double-glazed windows on a Cabins For Schools timber building can open, giving you complete control of the environment and flexibility to adapt to the needs of the pupils using it.
I breathed in some more of the spruce scented air, really filled my lungs! I could almost feel the oxygen waking my brain! I felt alert, inspired and ready!
An outdoor cabin can provide a safe haven for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
I remembered when we were invited back to George Spencer Academy in Nottingham, the stars of the video I mentioned earlier, and how they’d told us how their cabin has helped the academy’s pupils and staff.
Specialist Intervention Caseworker, Liz Millinship and Head Teacher, Andrew Field, along with a number of the academy’s fabulous children had told us of the benefits they see from this unique, happy space.
It’s a space to hold group interventions, where students who may have difficulty initiating a conversation with others can practice their verbal and nonverbal communication skills. They can learn to read facial expressions, recognise gestures, and use eye contact, in a safe, non-threatening, open environment.
For students who find the school environment particularly challenging, the Cabins For Schools room provides a space that is unattached to the typical school classrooms or traditional break out spaces, for example, offices or staff rooms.
And George Spencer Academy's cabin hasn’t just provided the school’s students with a safe haven. Staff struggling with the day to day challenges of education, especially those supporting challenging pupils with complex and difficult needs, have found having a place to ‘take five’ and collect their thoughts, before continuing with their day, has had an enormously positive effect on their wellbeing.
You should watch the inspiring video to find out more about why the pupils and staff of George Spencer Academy love learning in The Cabin and discover what one could offer your school!
Forest learning in an outdoor cabin will provide a flexible, all year round space for Schools to use
The hut that I am now sat in writing this is one of our popular BBQ huts. It has an impressive central, integral, barbecue. Many Cabins For Schools timber buildings, like the one at George Spencer Academy, are based on this same design. You can have the real fire grill fitted (read about our Forest School Dens here) to help young people learn about fire in a safe environment but many schools don’t. This allows for even more flexibility in the design of your bespoke outdoor building. For instance, many schools have had solar lighting installed instead, adding to the cabin’s sustainability credentials and lowering environmental impact – something that is increasingly important to young people. A ‘Solar Pipe’ to let in lots of natural daylight from the Cabin roof is a very popular replacement for the integral BBQ!.
As I say, again, channelling myself as a school child, having access to a barbecue on the school grounds would have been, well, so cool! Beyond the ‘cool factor’ though, cabins fitted with the real fire BBQ Grills are popular with schools for Forest and Outdoor Learning as they provide a safe space to experience a real fire … but who am I kidding? For the children – it is all about how cool it is!! I’ve listened to children bristle with pride talking about their school’s BBQ hut when meeting pupils from other schools.
A modern timber Eco Classroom, provides additional space and a deeper connection with the outdoors
If you need even more space for education and play, then the larger School Cabins and Eco Classrooms offer a practical, stylish and cost-effective solution for your school or nursery. Designed and manufactured to your specific requirements, this modern alternative to a Porta Cabin is built from sustainable materials, designed with biophilic principles that connect children and young people to the environment outdoors and nature.
Like the smaller cabin, these larger school buildings can be used as a multifunction space for Classrooms, Special Educational Needs, a quiet place for mindfulness and mental health, a music room or a staff / meeting room. Many schools are also using them to increase their ‘After School Club’ offer to meet the changing needs of working parents.
The walls are constructed from Structural (C16) timber and are fully insulated with Kingspan™ thermal insulation boards giving you comfort and warmth throughout the school year, even those tricky winter terms!!
The experts say
In conclusion, The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’s new Chief Executive Officer Dr Anne Hunt says, “The evidence is clear that high-quality learning outside the classroom can deliver positive benefits across a range of cognitive, social and emotional, physical and mental health outcomes. In my view there are few interventions that, at such modest cost and universal availability, offer an immediate opportunity to help address so many of society’s challenges.”
I think she’s right. Since I moved away from my stuffy desk into this fabulous airy space, I’ve effortlessly completed this blog! You will find your pupils are equally inspired. Find out more at cabinsforschools.co.uk, call us on 0800 044 8418 or pop into our show-site, you’ll find us just off junction 25 of the M1.
And … you’ll probably still find me sitting in this cabin.