‘Empty Classroom Day’

What does that image sum up for you? A school at a weekend? A school about to close as numbers dwindle? No, this about emptying classrooms during the school day – the purpose being to get the kids outside, to play and learn. The initiative highlights again the importance of playing outside – both within the structured school setting but also outside of formal education

As the days grow longer, Empty Classroom Day is the latest of a series of articles and initiatives which are promoting the outdoors, yet at the same time, highlighting how screen-based leisure and a range of other factors, from risk, the weather, closure of facilities etc, have the potential to limit the range of experiences which all children should have.

The most recent of these is a piece in the Times Education Supplement (TES) featuring iOi patron Sir Ken Robinson, which found that 75% of 6—11 year olds spend much less time outside, in non-school time, than the one hour that the UN recommends for prison inmates.

As the Institute of Imagination, while we embrace wholeheartedly the idea of play and playing to learn, we are particularly interested in how play, the imagination and being outdoors intersect. In particular, two features have caught my eye in recent weeks:

In the USA, the architecture critic Inga Saffron bemoans the way in which most children as the weather picks up, ‘will race out to the kind of playgrounds that feature mass-produced plastic forts done up in circus-inspired colours and perched on spongy mats’. However she goes on the say that she detects ‘an emerging awareness that play spaces need to be designed in ways that not only encourage physical activity, but also sparkle imagination and promote sociability’.

The second article published on parenting blog kinstantly is about forts, dens, and hideouts and how children all over the world make these ’special places’ whatever they choose to call them. The research by David Sobel, identified two common features of this activity:

“Children are figuring out their nearby world and they’re becoming more independent.”

“They start indoors, and then move out and further and further away.”

He continues by saying that den building finishes around the age of 12 and 13, when they start to look in the mirror more.

When did you last build a den or fort to sit in and daydream and imagine?


Gareth Binns
Chief Executive, Institute of Imagination



stay up to date

Sign up below to receive updates on our events, news and campaigns. View our privacy policy for details of how your data will be stored and processed.

  • I would like to hear about:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.