The first couple of weeks of January are too early to make changes for the year ahead, there are still leftover chocolates in the cupboard, the tree has only just come down and it takes time to get back into a routine. So-called New Year’s resolutions are often broken before they’ve really begun because lots of us are not ready to commit.
Now, we are a few weeks into 2022, it is the perfect time to make a renewed commitment to outdoor learning (as well as go to the gym, eat more veggies and whatever other lifestyle changes you’d like to make!)
What does a renewed commitment to outdoor learning look like?
1. Look at lesson plans or daily schedules to assess how much time is being spent outside
We know time is tight, however it is worth reviewing your overall plans for the term or rest of the year sooner rather than later. Sometimes when you look back over plans and schedules with a fresh perspective things can jump out at you. Are you making time to take maths outside each week for example? Can you? What would you need to do this? Make your way through each subject and topic in this way and take notes.
Teachers, talk to your colleagues about working together to get classes outside and school leaders, make plans to support your teaching team to do so.
2. Make changes where you can to take lessons, topics and activities outdoors
Now you have identified when you can go outside and what you need to do so, it’s time for action. Modify lesson plans where you can to spend time outside. Remember, you don’t have to be outside for a whole lesson. For example, the outdoor portion of your lesson could simply be a 10 minute exploration exercise and afterwards pupils return to the classroom to report their findings. Alternatively, your class could spend the whole day outside if that’s possible within your setting. The message here is that the more time pupils spend learning outside, the more they benefit.
We’ve seen classes head outside to recite poetry, play a musical piece, undertake science experiments and more. It’s all good stuff!
3. Review school trips and visits for the next school year
This is important to look at now because any changes need to be made well in advance of the following school year. As you well know there are risk assessments, site visits and more to complete long before the pupils get on that bus and pull out of the car park!
Discuss with your team whether there are enough trips? Do any of them have an emphasis on spending time outdoors, and even better in nature? Where are trips going and what are their goals?
4. Talk within your team about outdoor learning
To prioritise outdoor learning is a team effort. Share ideas for outdoor learning and work to support one another getting outside. There are plenty of ways to double up on resources and space to take classes outside. Take meetings and training sessions outside when you can to set the tone and refresh yourself.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel to bring more outdoor learning into your day to day teaching. You’ll find excellent resources out there online and beyond to support you. Here are some of ours to get your started. And here’s another one from elsewhere aimed at EYFS and KS1 just to show how much is available. There is a lot to dig into!
5. Think about your outdoor learning space…but not too much
A lot of people get caught up on the outdoor learning space they have to use and yet in reality, any outdoor space will do. A netball court works. A playing field works. A few benches lumped together in a courtyard works. What matters is getting outside to begin with and working with what you have. Think about what you have and then how you can use it rather than what you’d like. You can still have a dream list and work on that in the background but there is no need to wait to get outside until its complete.
6. Commit your plans to paper
Now you have taken the time to look back on your plans, make changes and collaborate with other team members, write your intentions down. Make clear goals for outdoor learning for the remainder of this school year. Then go and do it. No matter what, your pupils will benefit from stepping outside of the traditional classroom this term. The fresh air, room to be creative, problem solve and collaborate with others in a new setting can only be a good thing!
Make the commitment today and put outdoor learning at the forefront for 2022. It is good for the children, good for you and good for the future. Let us know how you get on and what your pupils thought about their outdoor learning experiences.