Applying the ‘KISS Principle’ to Outdoor Teaching and Learning

Many schools we visit and work with are very serious about taking their teaching and learning outside of the classroom and we see some fantastic practice and highly creative methods.

Often, however there is a misconception that we require specialist and costly resources, facilities and apparatus in order to be effective.

During our staff training we bring along a range of simple, low cost resources that can be easily acquired by schools to make this a reality. We offer an idea below that help provide a huge range of learning activities.

Chalk This Way!

Yes, chalk! Big, chunky outdoor playground chalk in different colours. All that’s then needed is a hard surface such as playgrounds, paths, car parks and the walls of buildings.

Obviously you can also place blackboards on walls and fences or simply apply a couple of coats of blackboard paint to an existing surface. This opens up a world of opportunities for simple resources that lead to powerful learning.


  • Collecting, counting and more complex data analysis using items collected from the outdoor environment
  • Drawing of tables and boxes for categorising
  • Charts and graphs for more complex data recording and analysis can also be very easily created

The range of options can even extend to models, symbols and graphic representation of the solar system, the human circulatory system. We have also seen schools using chalk representations of the periodic table for students to fill in over a period of time and creative teachers posting maths problems in chalk for students to take on during breaks and lunch periods.

So although thermoplastic playground markings and elegant blackboards are a nice to have in our outdoor areas they are not always necessary when so much powerful teaching and learning can take place with much simpler approach.

Do remember, take photos, write up your approach and share great ideas and methodology with colleagues.

Tarpaulin Teaching

We strongly advocate the use of the humble tarpaulin. They can be bought in all different sizes for just a few pounds from DIY or hardware stores (and even cheaper on-line).

All that is then needed is a permanent marker pen and some long straight edges with which to create a grid or x and y graph axis. Then, finally, some metal pegs to hold them down and you have a hugely versatile resource for outdoor, large scale, collaborative teaching and learning. 6 x 6, 8 x 8, 10 x 10 patterns (and more) are all useful according to the activity and age group you are working with.


Just a few of the activities that can then be undertaken are as follows:

  • Bar graphs, pictographs and other large scale data analysis activities
  • Crosswords, scrabble and other spelling activities
  • Coordinates and direction finding (in English or an MFL)

I’m sure you can think of many more. Do remember take photos, write up your approach and share great ideas and methodology with us and your colleagues.