Why Outdoor Learning?

Well hello!  I thought today I would do a different sort of a blog and explain a bit more about me, my love of outdoors learning and why I am so passionate about it all.

It was a cold and dreich winters day here in Scotland.  The wind was howling and the rain lashing down.  The local authority I was based in did not have school on a Friday afternoon for the children.  We worked longer days the rest of the week but had a short Friday.  However, some Friday’s were used for staff training. 

This rotten Friday I had to travel across the authority to another school, spend it outside for outdoor learning training and then try and get home.  There wasn’t an easy bus route from that school to home and I didn’t drive.  Only a couple of us were on the training and the others did not live in my town.  To say I was grumpy would be a bit of an understatement. 

So, I turn up and am met with a trainer who was so enthusiastic.  We started with a PowerPoint, my heart sunk, was it going to be an afternoon of death by PowerPoint?  He talked about the theory, which did make sense and the expectation of us doing outdoor learning within the Scottish education framework. Then took us outside. 

This for me was the pivotal moment.  We got to explore the outdoors and learn as children would.  It made me look at the playground in a whole new way.  The pieces started slotting together.  I must admit, the rest of the afternoon was fun, and Matt really had inspired me!

Monday came around and I was back to my class.  I had a small group of boys in an autism unit.  I was motivated and planned my outdoor lessons.  We would take our capacity measurement lessons to the mud kitchen and explore.  The boys found it riveting, the quality of discussions amazed me.  I was hooked, there really was something in this outdoor learning. 

I turned into a bit of a knowledge vacuum.  I wanted to know how to use this tool, what areas of the curriculum I could take outdoors and learn more.  I must have spent hours upon hours on Pinterest looking up ideas.  The boys consistently found outdoor learning a real key to unlocking their education.  They were motivated in a way they just were not whilst indoors.

I then moved schools and was in a mainstream class.  Would outdoor learning have the same impact here as it did with the ASD children?  Of course, it did!  We completed a term with every writing lesson outside.  The children were motivated, were trying hard and were making amazing progress. 

It was transferring back into class.  From poetry (have a peek at the blog for one lesson) and cartoons, description and instructions, we used the playground as our classroom for so many types of writing.  Jotters were never taken outside.  Sometimes we spent a whole lesson outdoors with clipboards, or more often chalk, sometimes just part of the lesson. 

I will never forget a young lad.  We shall call him Thomas. He had real trouble spelling his own name.  However, one day we were writing poetry outside.  This kid, who would never put pen to paper, sat and focused.  Eventually, he came over to me to show me his work.  Not only had he completed his task, he had tried to use some ambitious vocabulary by sounding it out.  Not many things made me properly tear up as a teacher.  This did.  I was so proud of him.

Time continued and I took every opportunity to attend training on offer and talk to others.  I bought all Juliet Robertson’s books.  I joined OWL Scotland, I even began my Masters in Learning for Sustainability as Outdoor Learning played a key feature in this course.  This led me to the Institute of Outdoor Learning and their Scottish conference, I joined this too! 

I started spending my own weekends learning new skills and exploring new ideas.  I paid for these myself.  I wanted to learn as much as possible as the impact it was having was amazing.

Alongside this I started to notice a real difference in me.  I was loving teaching.  I was motivated.  I was even starting to control the depression and stress I had suffered from throughout my teaching career and could come off the medication that had for so long been as aspect to my life.  Of course, now we are told time outdoors helps such things, but back then we weren’t.

Eventually I decided it was time to leave the classroom.  My first business, a tutoring business, was doing well and would subsidise me starting a new business.  Love Outdoor Learning was born! 

My aim here is really simple.  It is to help as many teacher’s as possible realise how amazing outdoor learning is and how much it can positively impact them, their children and help with delivering the curriculum.  We focus on curriculum based learning and building confidence within staff.

We have delivered countless hours of training to schools, we have our blog and I have even had the privilege of presenting talks on curriculum based outdoor learning to universities, colleges and at conferences. 

I also aim to get as many families as possible outdoors and learning in the natural environment.  We work with all ages here!

For me, outdoor learning has truly changed my life, my attitude and my career.  I truly believe it is an amazing tool. It can lower teacher’s workloads and help close the attainment gap. Who would have known that dreich winters day would have such a huge impact!

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