As the new year starts, it is time for a new plan. As a teacher, that would mean new termly plans and excitement about what was coming up. I loved this time of the term, although I could also find it stressful. But we are here to share our top 5 tips to help you make the most of your playground or outdoor learning space!
You can also add in things like number or letter cards, clay, clipboards and other bits and bobs which are linked to the curriculum. Having these helps extend your learning.
All this in a bag which is easily accessible within your classroom takes the hassle out of outdoor learning. You do not need to spend time collecting resources if you have this. You can simply grab and go.
Be Dressed for It
Make sure all adults in your classroom are dressed for outdoor learning. As educators we always make sure our children are dressed appropriately but can sometimes forget about ourselves. If we are cold, wet and miserable that will transfer to our children.
I always kept a pair of wellies, warm socks, hat, gloves and a waterproof jacket in my classroom. But in addition to this, I also kept a pair of joggers. You see, as a teacher I enjoyed wearing skirts and dresses but these were not always great for outdoors if the weather turned. But, if needed, I could pull a pair of joggers over them and be that little bit warmer.
Consider Your Curriculum
We love a document created by Education Scotland which has all the experiences and outcomes but shows which can be taught outdoors – find it here
When you look at it, you will realise the vast majority can be taught outside. Yet, some people still imagine outdoor learning as being restricted to STEM or the arts. This is not the case.
As a teacher, I would sit and look at what I was planning on achieving each term and think which would be easily taught outdoors. A simple way to approach this way of thinking is to ask yourself what it is about that lesson that requires you to stay indoors.
If we were doing a project on old toys I might decide a kite is a good way to go. I have maths in the shape and measurement of the kite. Technology covers the construction of a kite. Writing might be writing the instructions. Science is the forces of getting it to fly. And so on. A lot of that can be taken outdoors to help children learn but supported through indoor learning. Let’s face it, you cannot really understand the sensation of the pull of a kite or the emotions of flying one without actually experiencing it!
Part or All
Remember, you do not need to teach a whole lesson outdoors. You can teach just part of it and then continue the lesson indoors. There are no hard and set rules you need to follow here, it is what works for you.
I would often teach time outdoors. Whether it was with the younger years and knowing where the hours were, older children and understanding 5 minute intervals or the oldest children and durations of time. All of these could be explored through drawing a clock on the concrete playground and children working in pairs or groups. I could then follow up the learning indoors.
So, never feel there is a set amount of time you need to spend teaching outside. Simply do what works for you.
Indoor learning can often be interrupted, whether through fire alarms, visits to your classroom or more unusual occurrences. And outdoor learning is much the same.
Whilst we were less likely to be interrupted by people, nature would often side track the learning. From a poorly hedgehog and phoning the SSPCA to come and look after it to lots of tiny eggs (snail eggs). Little things are sent to try you.
But these little things often have a learning purpose of their own. If appropriate, be confident in going off course. The eggs and hedgehog helped children develop a love of nature and the local environment. Indeed, the children with the hedgehog still talk about that with me 4 years on!
There is always time to reinforce learning.
So, just as you are flexible in the classroom, remember you can be flexible outdoors as well. This may feel daunting if you are not confident in outdoor learning but the more time you spend outdoors the more confident you will become!
Love Outdoor Learning offer a range of support for curriculum based outdoor learning within the school, both in primary and secondary. Our membership resource offers training and lesson ideas throughout the curriculum and we regularly share blogs with new activity ideas and thoughts on outdoor learning. We can also offer on-site training and support.
Our aim is to help support as many educators as possible. We offer free support calls to help schools understand how we can support them in their learning journey. If you wish to book one just jump over to our diary.