What Happens When Elementary Students in Denmark are Allowed to Take the Classroom Outdoors?


In Denmark, the mindset is, “Why stay inside if the weather is nice?”  And this mindset even applies to elementary schools.  Lots of lessons can easily take place outdoors.  And, in fact, there’s some lessons that can ONLY take place outside the classroom walls.

Photos are of students attending Højmark Skole, most are courtesy of Højmark Borneverden

Our school recently added a fruit orchard to its school grounds!  Members of the community helped build the fence, and students helped plant the trees.  Students are also involved in the maintenance of the orchard, the garden, and the greenhouse, as well as other outdoor areas.


Students “plant” environmental art to decorate the new orchard:



Each grade created a pillar in a different rainbow color:



Students read and enjoy the new art installation:



Below the kids are reading with “reading friends”–an older student is paired with a younger student to help them read or to read to them:



Turns out that workbooks don’t have to be worked on inside a classroom at a desk, they can also be completed outside.  Who knew?!



And here are the kids at work in the outdoor classroom shelter:


Once again, older students are helping younger students.  Studies show that we retain knowledge best when we actually teach it to someone else.  Researchers have found that “students enlisted to tutor others… work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively.”  http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/30/the-protege-effect/


More environmental art–each student created a butterfly that is attached to the orchard fence.  When the wind blows, the butterflies flap their wings–very cool!


And a few more outdoor activities from this spring:

Lesson involving a scavenger hunt;


taking a walk and picking up trash to help keep the community clean;


a soccer tournament with teams organized across grade levels;


and I can’t say precisely what’s happening here, but I’m sure it’s educational 🙂


And then May happened, and the weather has been so beautiful all month long, that I’m not convinced the students have been indoors at all…

(It’s actually been a record-breaking month for May, both for highest average temperature, and for hours of sunshine.  Denmark had 11.5 average hours of sunshine each day in May, which is unheard of. But we’re not complaining! )

Kicking it oldschool with outdoor P.E.:



Sawing down and whittling trees for a sculpture project:



(Had to include several photos here, just because it’s unusual to an American, such as myself, to see elementary school kids working with knives and saws at school…)



During the beautiful month of May at Højmark Skole, lunches were eaten out in the sunshine,



team-building activities were accomplished,

According to Arabelle, the kids were “carrots”, and one kid tries to pull the carrots out.  If a kid is pulled out, then they have to help pull more carrots.


vegetables were planted,



and  snobrød (twist bread) was cooked over the schoolyard fire pit:



And then there was this kind of random field trip my 2nd grader went on where they biked to a nearby farm and then sawed down a bunch of trees.



I’m not entirely sure what the purpose was, but they do look pretty proud of themselves!




May and its gorgeous weather ended with a field trip to Wowpark for the younger kids. (They biked  there!)




And an awesome overnight field trip for the older students:



There are SO many benefits to children being outdoors and learning outside of the classroom (and I’m sure you can think of many on your own) but here is a short list of reasons for bringing learning outdoors:

  1. Make learning more engaging
  2. Make learning relevant
  3. Nurture creativity and imagination
  4. Develop learning through play and experimentation
  5. Improve attendance
  6. Reduce behavior problems
  7. Develop interest in the environment and wider surroundings
  8. Expose children to new opportunities
  9. Keep healthy
  10. Enjoy almost limitless resources

Read more here:





  1. When I was on the local school board, there were plenty of ideas like these going around, but we were too scared of losing federal dollars, and too regulated by the state, to do anything much different than everybody else. Congratulations to the Danes for allowing local schools to do their own thing.


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