It’s been quite the year hasn’t it?! Everyone of us has a story (or two) about how the pandemic has affected our lives. There are good news stories of people helping one another and trying new things, as well as many sad tales of people losing their jobs and struggling with their health. Education is no different – educators and pupils have had a tough time with ever changing rules, timetables and styles of learning. Yet, the way in which many schools have embraced outdoor learning has been a positive development to come out of it all. Now it’s time to go back to school and back to outdoor learning. Let’s make a commitment to teaching outside for the long haul.
The benefits of outdoor learning are widely touted and they are valid and important. That being said, time is tight and we are all trying to squeeze a lot into a limited schedule. So, how do you make time for outdoor learning in your setting?
Change the Setting, Not the Subject Matter
Outdoor learning can be as simple as taking your existing lesson plan outdoors, or even part of it. Can your modern foreign language role plays be done outside on some benches or sitting on the grass? Probably. Can a practical drama class take place under some trees or on a field? Most definitely. Can English poetry reading move out into the fresh air? Of course it can.
In many cases you can head outdoors with little to no modification of your indoor lesson plan. Seize any and all opportunities to do this. Your pupils will thank you.
Modify Your Indoor Learning Activities for the Outdoors
There is a little bit more planning involved with this one but bear with us. Plenty of learning activities that are done indoors can be done outdoors with just a few tweaks. For example, natural items can be swapped for the blocks that you might typically use indoors for maths with KS1 and 2 pupils. Ask children to collect sticks or rocks instead. Use pavement chalk instead of pens and paper to write things down or draw diagrams. With a little bit of creativity there are lots of lessons like this one that can move outside.
Remember, you don’t have to do this for every lesson (although you certainly could!) but children learn best and are happier when they are outside so the more outdoor learning you incorporate into each day the better.
Use Your Site to Your Advantage
Every school site is unique and has something to offer in the way of outdoor learning. Use a school garden or allotment beyond the act of gardening itself and take a science class to see the parts of a flower first hand. Use a woodland area (or even a tree or two) get up close and personal with the trees to look at how the roots provide stability for the soil. If your school has more of a built-up feel, use the school’s surroundings to look at and talk about urban planning.
These are just a few ideas, there are almost endless opportunities to use your grounds and still teach to the curriculum. As you know, when the stuff you are learning relates to real life for your pupils it is more likely to stick.
We believe that each school should have an outdoor learning provision for every subject for every pupil. Yet we also recognise that educators have a lot on their plates. Let’s start by taking steps to make sure pupils and teachers spend regular time learning outdoors this year. See our call to action here.
We are always here to chat and help you put a long-term outdoor learning plan into place for your school. Send us a message here to talk more.