Any Teacher—Any Outdoor Place Ten Top Activities To Try By Juliet Robertson What makes learning outside different to being indoors? If you ask this question to children, many of them will refer to the sense of freedom and availability of more space. For me, I learned several years ago, to view empty tarmac spaces and featureless playing fields as full of potential and possibility. The mindset shift happened at a specific moment in time. I was watching a TV programme where two Aboriginal women were being interviewed. The presenter asked them what they saw in the patch of “wasteland” bush where the interview was taking place. The two women looked at each other and laughed. They told the presenter “You may see waste ground. We see one big free supermarket.” When developing a creative curriculum, being anywhere outside is a natural place to begin. This article has a selection of activities which can work in any space. I find it helpful to consider outdoor learning as any learning which takes places outside. Rather than get hung up about what is and isn’t “outdoor learning” focus on the quality of the lesson and whether being outside is the best context for the specific lesson or focus. Furthermore, try not to treat outdoor learning as a subject. Instead, integrate it into your current timetable. 1) Circle games – PSHE These are any games you know and love from inside. With little children it may be ones like “Duck, duck, goose.” Older children can enjoy more complex team games. Circle games help children to acclimatise to being outside and to remember that behaviour expectations are the same as indoors. So a structured game with clear rules helps.
2) Find Something Interesting - Literacy This challenge is very open ended. I use it to help set working boundaries in an outdoor space and to establish what is okay to collect and what isn’t. It is advisable to have a size limit, e.g. no bigger than your hand; that no live animals to be brought back or dangerous items like broken glass. Weeds are usually alright to pick. The beautiful flowers grown in a container should be left alone. Once children have found their item, they can write a poem in a structured format about it at the working level of your class. 3) Finding a space to be – critical thinking and problem solving Challenge children to find a place outside which is as far away as possible from others in the class within a restricted area. This takes some thinking about! They will need to decide what tools can be used to measure the spaces between children. Initially, children want to go to the perimeter of a space. Is this the most effective approach? Are grid patterns more effective? Once children have established a system, then they can find a place to be outside that is away from others for working alone on tasks. 4) Mathematical pictures Working alone or in pairs the children have to create pictures which demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of key concepts. For example, you may have a list of shapes to be included and features such as right, acute, obtuse, straight and reflex angles highlighted. Have bags of cones, shells, sticks and stones available for children to use, if you have a blank outdoor space. This is a useful assessment activity.
The May 2014 issue of the UKED Magazine from UKedchat. Outdoor learning special.