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Outdoor Discovery Centre

Want to give every child the joy of daily outdoor play and discovery?

In a world where technology is ubiquitous and there is a growing disconnect between people and the environment, the Outdoor Discovery Centre gives every child the cognitive, social and physical benefits of daily outdoor learning.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






September 2017
If we want healthy, functioning children who understand the value and importance of the outdoor environment, we need to create opportunities for them to experience it every day.

About the innovation

What is the Outdoor Discovery Centre?

Time spent outdoors and in nature has well-documented health and learning benefits, so it is crucial that children are provided with these opportunities from a young age. But for many children, particularly those living in cities, access to the outdoor spacesis limited.

The Outdoor Discovery Centre was built three years ago as part of the Canadian International School in Singapore. It is made up of 15 outdoor classrooms, converted from a playing field. The Centre ensures that all children have the opportunity to move, walk and play outdoors every day.

The Centre fostersaholistic approach to education, connecting children with their environmentand providinga rich springboard for improved learning, health and wellbeing. There is also a focuson social development, encouraging children to relate well to each other in a variety of environments and often in a mixed age setting. The more informal setting gives educators a chance to understand who each child is and what motivates and interests them, so this can be incorporated into their education.

The outdoor learning spaces are made entirely from natural materials, with hills and tunnels planted with grass. Children are exposed to the elements and there’s plenty of opportunity to move in an organic way to stimulate mental and physical wellbeing. The school reports increased attention, curiosity and concentration after the children have outdoor sessions, as well as a reduction in behavioural incidents. Increased imagination and creative problem-solving skills are also reported, while parents are pleased with enthusiastic stories of school and improved sleep.

The space provides almost endless opportunities for physical movement and play. A very large mud kitchen allows children to submerge to their waist in mud, with lots of water basins where they can become scientists, mathematicians, cooks and outdoor experimenters. There’s also a large sandpit, as well as a bicycle track running the perimeter of the play area.

There areplenty of settings for creative expression too. There are fourdifferent platform areas where children can perform, sit, read, paint and write stories.Asound garden provides pipes and other objects that children can use to create musical performances. Large graffiti boards provide a space for painting and chalking designs.

Two gardens allow children to grow their own food, using a variety of technologies and techniques, including aeroponics andhydroponics, and experimenting with alternativesources of energy and compositing. The gardens also provideopportunities for school-wide learning projects and connections to the local community. Children are involved in the plants' and vegetables’ growth from beginning to end, whiletrees and flowers encourage butterflies, bees and other insects, allowing for lots of hands-on scientific discussion and discovery.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The Outdoor Discovery Centre provides the opportunity for children to be in an immersive outdoor space in the middle of a bustling city.


Impact grows each year. As staff become more conversant to the Outdoor Discovery Centre's use, they both realise and develop the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits students receive. Parents' and communities' interest in both the Centre and the school has grown considerably. There are multiple research papers and reviews that show the evidence of benefits of children’s experience in natural environments including health through increased physical activity; wellbeing through enhancing social and intrapersonal qualities and educational attainment through developing ‘characters’ of resilience and confidence as precursors to successful learning.


Multiple Outdoor Discovery Centres have been built in Singapore with more to come. Blueprints and Centre layouts are easily transferable from campus to campus.

Implementation steps

Create a design, budget and building plan.

Designing an Outdoor Discovery Centre requires collaboration with the school's principal, facilities manager, and a builder (or a few!). Give thought to the specific context and area within thesurrounding the school. Take weather and climate into account when selecting building materials.

With the design in place, consider when to build and break ground.

Take school time disruptions into consideration when deciding when to start building. Projects over the summer allow for less disruptions. Consider how long the building will take and work around the school calendar.

Build an area that can grow in use over time.

Start using the Outdoor Discovery Centre with a small group and steadily grow capacity. Starting with a smaller group enables staff to consider special accommodations for younger learners. Understanding routines, strucutreand expectations helps staff adapt the area as morestudents begin to use the space.

Expand use of the Outdoor Discovery Centre through expectations.

Grow the expectation of daily outdoor learning in both students and staff. Offer professional development to support staff and grow their understanding of the benefits of learning in nature.

Embed outdoor learning into the community and school culture.

Outdoor Discovery Centres are valued resources that benefit children and the community. Let outdoor learning become a central part of general education at school.

Spread of the innovation

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