To maximize the use of time outdoors and to make the schoolyard practical as an instructional site, it is important to have some type of seating area that can accommodate a class of students. This teaching/meeting area clearly identifies the location as an outdoor classroom, and makes for an easy transition from indoor to outdoor instruction.
A seating area can take a variety of forms. Dozens of commercial options exist for benches and tables suitable for an outdoor learning space. But there are many free or low cost options available also.
Here are two innovative examples of seating that do not require commercial products. One North Carolina school turned empty cable spools into tables, and then utilized logs for seating. Cable spools can usually be obtained free from a variety of companies, but the spools need to be examined carefully before they are placed outside for use by children.
Keep in mind that the spools were designed to store cable not to function as a child’s outdoor desk. Check the spools very carefully for splinters, exposed nails, rough edges, etc. Check also to be sure that the spools have not been treated with a chemical preservative. Paint or some other type of surface covering is also helpful to slow down the deterioration of the spools.
This school in Boston uses an interesting mix of elements including vertical logs, horizontal logs and flat rocks. This mixture of seating material provides variety and an opportunity for children to select their own desirable seat. Children can choose both the height and texture of the seat. Notice how arrangement of the space keeps children neatly clustered while still providing interesting seating choices.
Logs are probably the most versatile form of outdoor seating—they are easy to obtain, easy to move and require little or no maintenance. Over time they will deteriorate and need to be replaced, but the decomposition process is a learning experience also. After making sure that logs are sturdy and free of unwanted critters, the seating area can usually be set up in less than an hour.