Outdoor Sensory Classrooms


This paper describes the efforts of teachers and school administrators in creating outdoor sensory classrooms in several school districts in the U.S. Outdoor sensory classrooms provide unique opportunities and advantages for students with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a disability which often has pronounced implications with respect to sensory perception and learning, as well as students without disabilities. In addition, recent literature in education has raised serious concerns regarding the percentage of their time that young people (with and without disabilities) devote to “screen time,” defined as time spent online, whether on smartphones or computers. This phenomenon would appear to be correlated with an increase in sedentary behavior and increasing rates of obesity among P-12 students. Many forms of well-designed outdoor-based education, including the use of outdoor sensory classrooms, can be utilized to help ameliorate these distressing trends in youth health. The audience for this paper presentation will learn a great deal regarding the relatively new development in education of outdoor sensory classrooms, the implications for future practice, connections with existing literature, especially in the fields of experiential education and inclusive special education, pragmatic considerations in creating these opportunities for students in P-12 settings, and possible benefits for these students.


Experiential, Exceptional Students, Autism, Screen Time, Outdoor Education


2019 Special Focus: "Learning to Make a Social Difference"


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Michael O'Connor
    • Associate Professor, College of Education, Eastern Oregon University, United States Oregon, United States