On page 2 there's an illustration of a vision statement for outdoor learning which can be used when a schools asks "Where do I want to be?" in terms of ensuring that learning outdoors is a frequent and regular occurrence for every child. Knowing how busy senior management and teachers are, the aim of this series of blog posts is to look at each statement within this vision and expand upon this with some practical suggestions. So let's begin...
Our school is a place where children have a right to work and play where it most suits their learning needs.
This statement is deceptively simple. Firstly it mentions the rights of children. This is something every school should check - whether or not their children actually have this right.
Many children enjoy learning outdoors and find that being physically more active or having more space gives them the opportunity to think, reflect and concentrate better. Thus, it's important that teachers observe their pupils and work out who really benefits from outdoor activities. The next challenge is to decide how these children can have more chances to work outside.
A lovely example of a class teacher enabling this to happen occurred last year at the school where I work. A P1 teacher realised that her class would enjoy playing and learning outside. She reorganised her classroom so that when she was working with groups, her seat gave her a view of the inside class and the area just outside her classroom. In conjunction with the children she set up a system where children could help themselves to resources to use outside. The pupils knew they had to stay within the designated area and behave sensibly. If they didn't then they lost the privilege of being outside during class time. When minor disputes arose outside, initially the children would come and tell their teacher. She gave them the choice of sorting it out independently or coming back inside the class. This quickly gave children greater responsibility over their choice about where to learn and play and to sort out gripes themselves.
Secondly, some activities are better taught outside. For example, learning about farming is more effective if children get to visit a farm, talk to a farmer and have a chance to see what a working farm looks like. It's even better if they get to grow their own crops, harvest them and make food from their produce. A good example can be seen in this case study about the Waldorf School in Prague. It's great to see that increasing numbers of schools are looking after hens and other animals too. That's real world learning which involves caring for animals, money management and even having to make life or death decisions.
The next post in this series is "All children are able to experience and enjoy the special nature of being outdoors."