The beginnings of Empty Classroom Day

18th May 2016

We met up with Anna Portch, founder of Empty Classroom Day to find out her thoughts on the day and why it’s great to learn outdoors.

Empty Classroom Day was created at London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF) in 2011 with the very first Empty Classroom Day being run in 2012. The idea came after a group of environmental educators were discussing Tim Gill’s report published by the London Sustainable Development Commission, Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting London’s children with nature (2011). This report set out some very upsetting truths including;

“Statistics suggest that one third of London’s families visit natural places only every two months or less frequently. One in seven had not made a single visit over the course of a year. The decline is steeper for children in poorer families and some Black and Minority Ethnic Groups.”

The group found this deeply upsetting as they all knew how much fun and how important outdoor play and learning was. Yet as LSSF discussed it they also knew that despite the barriers there were fantastic teachers and environmental educators in London taking children outdoors all year round. From this discussion, Empty Classroom Day was born – to try and get every child in London learning and playing outside on one day of the year. They wanted to celebrate all the great work that was happening and remind everyone why it was so important!

Empty Classroom Day has run every year since the first day in 2012 when 100 schools took part mainly from the Croydon area, and this annual celebration has grown each year with schools now taking part worldwide. The day only happens because of the enthusiasm of the children and their brilliant teachers who take their classes outside on Empty Classroom Day (and many other days of the year too) despite all the other demands on their time.

Empty Classroom Day is supported by many outdoor learning and play organisations. As well as their work of providing wonderful outdoor learning and play experiences all year round they have put on special events, donated staff and prizes to Empty Classroom Day.

Anna wanted to make it clear that the day was very much a group effort and have a special thank you to all the organisations and people who have volunteered their time to promote and support the day especially;

  • Martin Crabbe, chair of LSSF (London Sustainable Schools Forum),
  • Chris Robson, Zoe Slade and Mari Lopez, brilliant volunteers who helped make Empty Classroom Day a big celebration
  • Everyone at Project Dirt who supported the day from the beginning, especially Freya Grummitt and Nicky Spear
  • All the members of LSSF, LEEF (London Environmental Educators Forum), FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) and LWT (London Wildlife Trust) who went above and beyond what was expected
  • Awards for All who funded community workshops in 2015
  • Artists Sara Gelfgren and Brian Lewis who donated beautiful artwork that was used to promote the day
  • Eco-Schools at Keep Britain Tidy who have taken the day on with enthusiasm
  • “And all the many others who deserve a mention… but this list is already too long for a little article… it just goes to show you have to work together with lots of people to make things happen”.

Anna is a firm believer in the importance of children spending time outdoors within the school day and thinks that a strong connection with nature as a child leads to greater abilities to learn, problem solve and manage risk, as well as being a lot of fun.  Anna now heads up Empty Classroom Day in England through her role as Eco-Schools Coordinator for Keep Britain Tidy who is running this year with support from Project Dirt and Unilever through Persil’s ‘Dirt Is Good’ campaign. Join the celebration of outdoor learning and play, sign up your school or class to Empty Classroom Day.

The photo is of a recent London Sustainable Schools Forum meeting, if you are a teacher or work supporting sustainability in schools you are very welcome to come along http://www.londonsustainableschools.org/forum.html

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Wohoo! Top marks for signing up!

Thanks for joining the movement, we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂

Thank you for supporting Outdoor Classroom Day!

We’ll send you a newsletter shortly. Time to play is critical for every child – share your moments with us by tagging #OutdoorClassroomDay and make every day a day to learn and play outdoors!

Thank you for supporting Outdoor Classroom Day!

Thanks for joining the movement we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂 Check out the resources tabs for ideas for the day – and to make learning and play part of every day!

Wohoo! Top marks for signing up!

Thanks for joining the movement we can’t wait to see what you get up to on the day! Please share this with your colleagues and friends to help us make it possible for every child to get outdoors to learn and play every day 🙂 Check out the resources tabs for ideas for the day – and to make learning and play part of every day!

Thank you for supporting Outdoor Classroom Day!

We’ll send you a newsletter shortly. Time to play is critical for every child – share your moments with us by tagging #OutdoorClassroomDay and make every day a day to learn and play outdoors!