A Brand New Course
It seems fitting, given the context, that over the last few months The Outdoors Group have been looking to set up and run a new course called ‘Learning Beyond the Classroom’. With schools struggling to fit restless children into small classrooms or segregated areas of a playground, making the most of every space the school grounds have to offer seems more important now than ever. However, why is it that more often than not the classroom is now seen as the place where learning takes place and the school field, playground or patch of over grown shrubs and nettles just where children play or have PE lessons? It wasn’t always the case!
Sunny Lockdown Days
I can’t be the only parent who has been incredibly thankful for the weather we’ve had during lockdown earlier this year. There was something about the children being able to be outside, even for only part of the day, that made home schooling that much easier. Maybe it’s the way it engages their curiosity into the natural world as they hunt for mini-beasts, watching bees travel from homemade bee homes to colourful flowers they had planted earlier in the year and having the time to ask questions about the seasons or why the moon was up during the day. Or is it the way in which it can provide another outlet for their creativity: drawing on the patios with chalk, whittling something out of wood, making towers or pictures out of stones at the beach? There’s also the added exercise in moving around outdoors, which leads to better physical and mental health and slightly earlier bedtimes. And there is no denying how they get on better with siblings when playing outside together and away from screens.
The Roofless Classroom
Those of us who have taught in primary and secondary school, of which I have for over 10 years, and regularly take children outdoors for their learning know the above to be true in an educational setting as well. It was Margaret McMillan who said, “The best classroom and richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky.” Now admittedly in 1925 there were no smart boards or computer tablets in the classroom, and it can be rather a large leap for some teachers, leaving technology behind for the first time (although there’s no reason some of it can’t be taken with you) however the benefits of learning outdoors are undeniable. Study after study have shown that children are more engaged with their learning when outdoors, behave better, develop problem solving and social skills in ways that are harder to replicate in the classroom, learn to manage risk for themselves and in the process develop a better respect and love of the natural environment around them.
Essential, Not Optional
Learning outdoors is not an additional subject needed to be crammed into an already busy timetable. It is not a specialist subject to only be undertaken by the highly qualified. It naturally compliments and adds context to indoor learning across a wide range of national curriculum subjects. Having seen first hand, at home and at school, the excitement, awe and wonder created by learning outdoors I am really looking forward to the launch of our first course starting in February in the hope that it can encourage others to put on their welly boots and jackets and embrace the outdoors with the children in their class.
Author: Ali Taylor, Schools Outreach & Learning Beyond The Classroom Course Leader
Date: Thursday 1st October 2020
Click here for more information about our Learning Beyond The Classroom qualification and to book onto our course in February.