Whether you are heading back to school after the long summer break or anticipating the end of a school year, it can be tricky to engage young minds that may be filled with thoughts of playgrounds, beaches and sunshine. But rather than confining learning to the classroom, why don’t you show children that learning is as much a part of the world outside of school as it is within?
There are lots of educational activities that you can do in the open air and many of these can be easily incorporated into your lesson plans. In fact, teaching outdoors has become a popular trend in recent years, with numerous organisations advocating it.
Education Scotland’s initiative ‘Taking Learning Outdoors’ suggests that:
The classroom of the future should not be limited to a classroom at all –an ‘excellent’ curriculum would go beyond the traditional boundaries and offer real-world learning experiences.”
What Are the Benefits of Teaching Outdoors?
There are a number of suggested benefits to outdoor teaching. Many studies have shown that outdoor learning compliments indoor learning. Seeing something materially, or learning through a physical activity, helps to turns the abstract concrete.
Learning outside is also a break from the norm and creates a sense of fun. This can help children to feel more excited about their lessons.
In addition, some children feel happier away from the constraints of the classroom. This can benefit self-esteem and concentration, while open air and green spaces promote physical and emotional well-being. Regular contact with the natural world also encourages children to care about the environment.
Ideas for Teaching Outdoors
- Unesco suggests listening and speaking exercises as a simple way to incorporate outdoor learning into English classes. It can be done in the school grounds, and involves listening for sounds and identifying them. To take the activity further afield you could try visiting a farm, and recognising animal sounds.
- To get your English lessons out of the classroom you could try some simple reading and writing exercises. Why not visit a park and write poems about the nature you can see?
- Maths can be one of the hardest subjects to make engaging, particular for those youngsters who don’t naturally warm to it. Learning Through Landscapes suggest a number of ideas for developing problem solving, reasoning, and numeracy outside. Check out the link for a wonderful, free resource!
- Number hunt games can work well for young children. This involves searching for specific quantities of outdoor features, such as ‘three gates’ or ‘seven petals.’ Another idea is identifying the shape of outdoor features.
- Biology is an obvious choice for outside lessons, as it is all about the world around us. The Lawrence Hall Of Science proposes a fun activity for learning about bio-diversity. Using sweep nets, youngsters can sample and compare the insects living in different areas.
- Collecting leaves is a simple task to help children identify the variety of trees in the local area. Connect this with art as you observe the colours, shades and shapes of each leaf.
- Geography is an ideal subject for hands on experience. Making straight-forward maps in the classroom, and then following the simple ‘journey’ outside is educational and fun. Have students turn maps into scavenger hunts to add to the excitement.
- Visiting ruined Roman forts or standing stones can bring history to life. Many historic attractions also offer interactive tours designed for children.
- Visiting early American settlements like Jamestown can bring history to life. Many historic attractions also offer interactive tours designed for children. Visiting early American settlements like Jamestown can bring history to life. Many historic attractions also offer interactive tours designed for children.
Taking children out of the classroom is always a worry, but with a bit of planning the risks shouldn’t seem so great. Nature Bridge offers some comprehensive advice about what to consider before you leave the classroom and these simple tips should also help.
- Laminated worksheets will be handy for when they inevitably get dropped in the mud!
- A whistle will prevent you straining your voice getting the classes attention.
- Breaking large groups up into smaller groups should help you keep track of everyone.
- Make sure everyone’s parents know what they need to bring. You don’t want their brand new trainers getting dirty.
- Plan a snack break to stop children getting grumpy before lunchtime.
So although there is some planning involved, taking your lessons outside is a fantastic way to vary the curriculum.
Do you have any other suggestions for activities outside of the classroom?
Bio: Louise Blake is a new mum who loves gardening and all things eco-friendly. She writes here for student rewards company School Stickers.
Image by USFWS Headquarters