One of the things I loved about my Forest School training and my Masters degree was the opportunity to explore theories studied in my teaching degree in a new way and properly explore some I was aware of but had not studied.
Today I want to touch on some of them and how I feel they link to outdoor learning. Though before I start, I will say try and keep in mind that this is a social post, not an essay, so I will only be lightly touching on them.
Lev Vygotsky. Lev believed that social interaction played a key part in children’s learning. As a teacher I learned this was why group learning tasks were important. Yet indoors they are often still so structured and contained. Take learning outdoors and suddenly it opens up in a new way. One workshop I love to deliver is den building. I will go over the safety aspects and then pretty much set the children off to build dens. I do not show them how. Instead, I allow them to problem solve and work my way around the groups asking questions but providing no answers. I leave it up to the children to problem solve, discuss and create together. It means I tend to have a wide range dens created and they are all wonderful. This really is letting the children communicate and work together.
Maria Montessori. She believed children like jobs to do. So as a classroom teacher this was giving roles for each child to complete. The office runner, light putter outer, jotter hander outer etc etc. It helps children feel useful. Outdoors though this can be even more meaningful. Can they children set the camp for outdoor learning? Can they create the boundaries? Can they help in ways to support as well as to learn? This gives some responsibility but also means children are invested in what they are doing and learning.
Didactic teaching. The old chalk and talk. There is still a place for this, even outdoors. When I am delivering a tools workshop, or even just teaching children how to draw a hopscotch grid, I tend to fall back onto didactic teaching. This is because clear, concise instructions are required to complete a set task or to keep the children safe. I cannot hand out knives and say get to it, work out what works, and if you lose a finger or two along the way at least you won’t make that mistake again! Nope, I really cannot do that. So didactic teaching is key here. But is it required as often in the classroom? I shall leave you to ponder on that
Then we have Jerome Bruner and his theory of scaffolding. This has Forest School all over it. Where a more experienced other helps a learner learn. I think as a classroom teacher I simply did not make sufficient use of this theory of learning. I tried, but I found it hard to do in a real and meaningful way. But outdoors, it is second nature to me. We are a team, we all have our strengths and we all pull together. This is probably one of my favourite ways of supporting outdoor learning and it is one I tend to use a lot when training staff.
Then of course we have Gardner, someone who didn’t feature hugely in my undergrad studies. They believed that people develop different types of intelligence, these are Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist. Gardner notes that the linguistic and logical-mathematical modalities are most typed valued in school and society. Yet the others are also key and can explored through outdoor learning. I fully admit, this is a theory I am still learning about and exploring, but the more I learn the more I like it.
So my question to you today, which theorists do you really like?