Top Tips for Outdoor Classroom Day!

This week is Outdoor Classroom Day!  We have a wonderful week planned, from working with schools and delivering our sessions in the community.  We are also presenting a webinar with Twinkl to help support teachers! 

So, today we thought we would share our top tips to help you get outside!  This will be followed up with an activity idea each school day this week.  You will find the activities on Facebook page as well as on here!

Tip 1 – All Subjects

(Dyment, J.E., 2005) found that outdoor learning is something particularly utilised to support learning in art and science.  However, Education Scotland is clear in that it can and should be used within all curricular areas.

Their website has a list of all curricular areas and the wee tree shows which E’s and O’s can be taken outside.  Almost everything is transferrable. 

Often times, as teachers, we fall into habits and find our comfort zone.  But we expect children to challenge themselves daily.  There is great support out there to help you get outside!  There are plenty of great websites, and often directly relate to the Scottish Curriculum.

Juliet at Creative Star wrote the Messy Maths and Dirty Teaching books.  She has amazing ideas, often for the younger years. 

Learning Through Landscapes has a great search on their website and lesson plans for all curricular areas. 

Then there is me with Love Outdoor Learning.  We have our teachers group, Take me Out the Classroom, as well as our Facebook page. 

There are plenty of ideas out there.  There is no need to struggle in this – use the knowledge of those who have tried and tested lessons.

Tip 2 – All Areas

The learning space has been written about for over 100 years. Yet, we often hear from teachers who say they can’t teach outdoors due to their “concrete jungle”.

Most schools I worked in were dominated by their concrete playground.  Did this stop me heading outdoors?  Of course not!  Did it mean I had to think a little more?  Yes.  Did it mean I had to overcome my previously held thoughts and feelings?  Absolutely. 

There is no doubt that “A natural space leads to richer imaginative play; increased physical activity; calmer, more focused play; and positive social interactions”, but concrete can help us learn too.  We even have a previous blog to help you!

Tip 3 – Equipment

When we go into schools, we are often told about their den building kits and the big pieces of playground equipment recently bought.  When we ask the children how often they are used the answer is rarely.  That is a big expense if it isn’t being used.  How can we make outdoor learning affordable?

We keep it affordable by keeping it simple.  As a teacher I would often buy equipment to use.  Therefore, buying huge kits were out my price range.  Instead, I developed a bag which I would keep handy and grab whenever we went out.  The contents were simple.

Wool and yarn – measure, design, create

Chalk – write, draw

Laminated register – quick and easy to update

Medications – I did have 1 class which needed a separate backpack but more often I could fit the medication for children into a pocket on my bag

Phone – the school need to be able to contact you and if something happens, you want to be able to call for help.  We had one lesson where we found a hedgehog in distress.  The children could tell me who to google and they dealt with the phone call.  Those children won’t forget that

Camera – as teachers, we like our evidence, a camera can help

Measuring tape – helpful for all sorts of maths activities

Mini first aid kit – better safe than sorry

Small ball – turn taking

Tip 4 – child led/ flexibility is key

As a teacher, you know what you want to achieve.  We think outdoors is scary as there are so many more variables.  But, how often indoors does your lesson go off course? 

Outdoors children can become more inquisitive.  This requires your flexibility.  In tip 3, I mentioned a hedgehog.  We were outdoors that day learning and enjoying an art lesson on Andy Goldsworthy.  There was no literacy, problem solving, science etc planned.  Yet when we found the hedgehog, we had to use all these things and more to get help for it.  As for art, that was saved for another day. Instead the children had to use real life literacy, problem solving, science and more!

Final tip – stop and think

My number 1 tip is to not simply put outdoor learning as a set time on your timetable.  In my experience, this can often lead to it becoming tokenistic.  Instead, make it a part of your every day teaching.  If it is regular, you will be surprised how much easier it becomes.  Not only that, you will soon find your children come into school dressed for it.

What issues do you find when taking classes outdoors and how do you overcome them?

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