The school has renovated and conditioned its outdoor facilities in a commitment to education in open spaces and contact with nature. The outdoor learning programme is integrated into our curriculum and is based on studies that have shown that this type of activity improves children’s mental health, intellectual development and social skills.
For a few weeks now, the students of the Sotogrande International School (Spain) have had a classroom of more than 2,100 m2 in the middle of nature. It is a recently refurbished area where students take part in educational activities that help them develop their skills in a natural, enriching and safe environment.
Students from 4 months to 18 years old have access to a unique forest in which, every day, some type of academic activity is carried out. From botanical explorations to improvisational theatre workshops, the space provides students and teachers with infinite possibilities where they can learn, interact and enjoy the outdoors.
Several investigations have shown that the use of open and natural spaces in education has a direct impact on the mental health of students. Spending time outdoors “improves self-regulation and reduces stress and aggression” in children, studies suggest, and even decreases symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“Many studies have shown that nature and outdoor learning increase students’ confidence, social skills, communication, motivation, physical skills, knowledge and understanding. At Sotogrande International School we know that children are generally happier when they are outdoors and this has an impact on their self-esteem, self-confidence, their ability to work cooperatively and to adopt a positive attitude towards learning”, explains Emma Butler, Head of Primary.
New classrooms: nature and well-being in the early years and early childhood
The conditioning works of the natural areas of the school have included the creation of an exclusive and specially designed area for the Early Years and Early Childhood stages (4 months to 6 years).
Linked by a Piazza or central space, which promotes collaboration and a sense of community, the school has opened new classrooms. Each classroom has direct access to its own outdoor spaces which allow learning to take place and flow smoothly and naturally, both indoors and outdoors. Children also have access to the areas called Atelier and Digital Atelier, where they are invited to develop their most creative abilities. They also have an area for music and access series of sports facilities.
All these spaces respond to an innovative educational approach, focused on the child as the generator of their own learning. “We believe the child is born strong, eager and ready to learn. The children are driven by their interest in the world around them, by making sense of what they see and their hunger to know more. It is their surroundings and the people they interact with that stimulate them and inspire them to grow”, explains Mrs Butler, Head of Primary.
As an IB School, this programme for Early years has been designed as a preliminary stage to the IB Primary Years Programme offered by the school from 3 years on and offers children an education based on play and exploration, also in the natural environment.
“We believe with the right stimulation and environment, the children will develop and enrich their knowledge through experience and self-discovery. We encourage social interaction, group work and collaboration. Each child is treated as equal, where each question and thought is highly valued by the team. We as educators lay the path of exploration and it is the children who inquire, question and make their own discoveries. Learning through play allows children to put their experience into practice and make sense of the world around them.”, adds Mrs Butler.
“We are very lucky to have a campus that is open, bright, modern and surrounded by nature. It is a delight to see our students enjoying all of our learning spaces as part of their integrated and child centred curriculum. Seeing students interact with nature and inspired by learning opportunities that are created by our passionate and dedicated teaching teams is truly wonderful”, says James Kearney, headteacher of the school.
About Sotogrande International School
Considered one of the best international schools in Spain by rankings such as those of El Mundo and Forbes magazine, Sotogrande International School is a community passionate about learning and focused on values. The school teaches the International Baccalaureate curriculum from 0 to 18 years of age, as well as special Elite Sports Programme for young student-athletes. Its objective is to create learning experiences full of magic, which open the minds of students to new experiences and learning strategies. Its purpose is to educate and develop people to become global citizens, who are as aware of themselves as they are of the world around them. To this end, the school provides them with opportunities to develop their own talents and find their authentic voice, whether in academia, sports, art or learning projects.