Easy Ways to Make Outdoor Learning Part of the Curriculum
I have very clear memories of my years in primary school.
I attended a tiny country school with very little space. Its playground was small and partly grassed over but backed onto fields and woodland.
As a result, Nature played a significant part in my primary education.
In Science lessons, we studied the local animal and insect life. We wrote stories and poems about Nature in English and went orienteering in PE. We spent an afternoon planting daffodil bulbs all over the school grounds. Next spring there were so many the school sold bunches as a fundraiser.
My best memories of primary school are of the outdoor learning we did. Going outside made boring lessons fun, and fun lessons awesome.
Benefits of Outdoor Learning
As 9-year-olds, we were unaware of the benefits we were reaping by going outdoors. However, these are now well-documented and include:
– Improved physical health
– Improved wellbeing and emotional health
– Opportunities to learn key ‘soft skills’ like teamwork, empathy, etc
– Improved academic performance
Make Outdoor Learning Part of the Curriculum
Many people think that outdoor learning is getting muddy in a vegetable patch or visiting a park.
But if you’re outside and you’re learning, then doesn’t that count?
Take normal lessons outside.
Many parts of the National Curriculum can be adapted to include learning outdoors.
And children will remember what they learned better than if they wrote it in an exercise book.
Every school has unique facilities and needs. Read on for ideas to make the most of what you have and help your children grow in the best way possible.
Low Effort Outdoor Learning
You can open the classroom door (if it opens to the playground) and let children sit out under the canopy to work.
Use leaves, rocks and other natural objects in lessons – think creatively! Nature is versatile.
Roleplay – Act out storybooks and historical events outside.
Draw/Map storybooks, countries, trade routes and planetary systems in the playground.
Covering part of the playground with a canopy or shelter makes outdoor learning easy all year round.
Moderate Effort Outdoor Learning
Take children on a field trip to a local park or nature reserve (or even around the school grounds).
Study the local ecosystem, look at different animals, insects and plant species and their habitats.
Or write about what you see, hear, feel, and think in the park/field/woodland, etc.
Critical observation encourages mindfulness and a keener awareness of the surroundings.
Turn the trip into an art project – whether that’s taking photos, drawing and painting or making a collage.
Higher Effort Outdoor Learning
However, wellies and/or old clothes may be required, and planters or a vegetable patch to do the growing. You could plant bulbs like tulips and daffodils that will flower every year.
Set up a Forest School if you have a wooded area in the school grounds. Place some logs in a circle to set the stage. Training courses are available for teachers to learn the Forest School techniques.
Einstein said that ‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.’
By teaching children outside you’ll ensure they remember the lessons they learn. It’s true – I’ve forgotten the English lesson with a book and whiteboard. But I still remember planting daffodil bulbs, dirty hands and the sense of freedom of being outdoors.