Saturday, June 30, 2012

Learning outdoors

Learning outdoors has two different meanings for me. The first is the way that I use the outdoor space as an extended classroom, where children complete work that could just as easily be completed indoors. The second is the way that the children interact with the outdoor environment to extend their learning. Both types of outdoor learning have a place in my teaching practice, as I will endeavour to describe below.

Extending the classroom

Unfortunately I am the only infant teacher in my school without outdoor access straight from the classroom. This has been a major frustration, especially as I often feel that I am failing to provide some children with what they need in their first few weeks in year one. Having a class with 2/3 boys also has an impact, so I try to make my classroom bigger by taking groups outside as often as possible. This means that children in the groups get better quality time from an adult (without interruption from others) and the children in class have more space to work. It makes no difference whether I send quiet or noisy children out, there is a significant drop in the noise levels inside the class.

Interacting and engaging with the environment

There are many ways that children can interact with the environment, from exploring the wild area to learn about plants, minibeasts and habitats, to co-operation and collaboration skills when den building and orienteering. Taking the children out of the school is valuable too. Why learn about the history or geography of your local area from photos when you can just go out walking? Many questions and ideas arise from interacting with the environment that wouldn't necessarily arise in the classroom. This interaction also allows opportunities to use relevant language and to explore and develop ideas. In my experience, parents seem more willing to volunteer their support when you are taking their children out of school.

This is a very brief start to my thoughts on learning outdoors and I hope to blog more about it soon.  

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