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From Muddy Hands and Dirty Faces…to Higher Grades and Happy Places

From Muddy Hands and Dirty Faces…to Higher Grades and Happy Places

A review of the most robust surveys and the most convincing and emphatic research, to demonstrate exactly why getting outdoors to play and to learn is good for children and young people, and why it should be part of every school day — and beyond.

The evidence is clear. Getting outdoors, especially to play, is essential.

  • Getting outdoors connects us to the places we live and the environments we will want to protect
  • Getting outdoors results in better learning outcomes, across the board
  • The benefits of outdoor learning and play last beyond early education
  • Children learn through play skills they not only need in adulthood, but skills they need right now - making friends, the point of saying 'sorry', very fine motor skills, who they are and could be, conservation of number, balance, different ways to express anger, art, history, geography....
  • Outdoor play gets kids more active, and they are more active for longer
  • Being outdoors creates healthier kids - and adults too
  • Time spent outdoors boosts mental health
  • Playing outdoors, being outdoors makes everyone happy

In 2017 over 20,000 schools and 2 million children got involved in Outdoor Classroom Day. Project Dirt — who run the campaign in conjunction with Dirt is Good (Unilever) — surveyed teachers taking part in the campaign about the length of playtimes at their schools and their experience of outdoor learning. The results have been fascinating.

The above graph shows how much time children got to play within the school day, within the four countries that supplied over 90 responses, compared to responses across the whole survey. To my mind there are two major points about this graph.

  1. Australia gets the most amount of playtime…
  2. The USA gets the least, be FAR
  3. No country has any consistency. some primary schools get 90 minutes for outdoor play… some 30 minutes.

and yet….

Schools, by sending the clear message that getting outdoors is important to children’s wellbeing and development, can help make outdoor learning and play become part of every child’s everyday life.

In 2018, over 3.4 million children in more than 26,000 schools have signed up to get outdoors and send a message that outdoor learning and playtime are important every day.

In 2017 22% of the schools responding to the Project Dirt survey said they had increased playtime since getting involved in the campaign.

Many governments around the world actively support outdoor learning and play. Parents and teachers want it. Children want it. All that is required is the catalyst to make it happen.

To read the the full report — including the foreword by the fantastic Richard Louv — please download it from here


Cath Prisk and Harry Cusworth PhD of Outdoor People wrote Muddy Hands, commissioned by Project Dirt and part-funded by the Dirt is Good Global team. There is an Australian version also published on the Australian Outdoor Classroom Day website.

Please share! #MuddyHands


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