The benefits of outdoor learning for K–12 students are well documented. How to furnish those spaces remains a footnote. It shouldn’t be, given the creative new options available from furniture suppliers offering outdoor school chairs, seating and tables. If your school is stuck at tree stumps and stepping stones, fear not. Here’s how to create enhanced and inclusive education areas outside with furniture designed for it. That means durability, function, comfort, and a touch of fun for teachers and students. Keep reading to learn the ins and out(side)s of creating wildly versatile spaces within urban and suburban schools, especially with OpenSpaces outdoor furniture.

Why Take Learning Outside?

A better question might be, why not? Research has shown that outdoor learning can have huge benefits on students’ mental health and academic performance. They’re often calmer and have better focus when learning in nature, and teachers have reported better behavior and social interactions with fewer disciplinary issues. The Minnesota Department of Education adds, “Some studies show outdoor learning can increase feelings of well-being, sustained attention and concentration. This particularly benefits children who may have experienced trauma or other life stressors.” Given the current state of mental health in schools – stressed students and weary teachers – every bit of “Vitamin N” matters. That includes being in natural light, according to a recent NPR report.

Schools don’t need miles of blue sky, meadows and forests. It’s possible to create outdoor learning anywhere:

  • Patios
  • Inner courtyards
  • Outdoor labs and makerspaces
  • Shaded “concrete” classrooms
  • Lawns
  • School gardens
  • Landscaped areas

Designing the Outdoor Classroom: What Matters

The phrase outdoor learning can mean very different things, with varying degrees of formality. The tips below apply to creating convenient, fresh-air extensions of the indoor classroom. Curating these focused learning spaces requires more structured solid seating and writing surfaces. Keep these furniture qualities in mind to maximize your school’s budget and available space:

Durability, Quality

Choose furniture that’s built to withstand outdoor weather extremes and student use. Smith System and Landscape Forms partnered to launch the OpenSpaces line. This line features highly durable, weather-resistant products that require low-to-no maintenance. Landscape Forms, a Michigan-based manufacturer is known for high-design outdoor furniture and accessories for commercial and public spaces.

Functional, Versatile

Outdoor learning is more than occasional field trips. For it to become a reality, students and teachers need the right tools to support continuous learning. Equip your areas with a variety of options to sit and work, alone or in collaborative groups. Give teachers mobile writing surfaces, like whiteboards, and make sure Wi-Fi extends to outdoor spaces.

Inclusive Options

Though not intentional, accessibility within outdoor learning spaces is often overlooked. It goes beyond smooth paths that are easy to navigate by people with mobility issues. Be sure to include tables that are wheelchair-accessible.


Stumps, hay bales and the bare ground work for brief learning periods. Even young learners tire or lose focus without proper ergonomic support. Offer a variety of comfortable, appealing seating and tables that draw students in and help direct their attention. After all, learning outside can present more distractions for some students.

Fun Design

 Mother Nature requires outdoor pieces that are built to endure the elements. But keep learning outside fun and a bit casual by choosing furniture in unique shapes, interesting configurations and vibrant colors.


 Make sure your outdoor furniture has surface-mounted options, if anchoring for stability and security are a concern. Also select pieces designed to work on hard surfaces and uneven surfaces, like gravel and grass. No one wants to feel like they’re on a listing ship 

Just like the students they serve, outdoor learning spaces are graduating to the next level. Smith System can provide outdoor school furniture designed specifically to help teachers and students embrace the elements and enhance learning. Contact us to turn any outdoor area into a learning oasis.