When I went to school, I spent many hours sitting in a classroom. The teacher stood at the front and talked and I daydreamed about going outside and using the outdoor play equipment. On a hot day the classroom was stifling. Fortunately things have changed, and learning is no longer about sitting passively listening to the teacher talk.
There are many benefits to learning outside rather than stuck inside a classroom all the time. Firstly, there is space. Children can move around. For example, you can use the space outside to demonstrate the solar system, with children as the planets. This will give them a much better idea of the immense distances involved. On a sunny day you can use shadows to demonstrate the earth’s movement. Also making simple rockets from washing up bottles always goes down well.
Playground markings are an excellent way to use the outdoor space. Simple number lines can be jazzed up by making them part of a snake, or a dragon. Many children learn best by doing things, rather than listening, and jumping along a snake will reinforce their concepts of numbers. Snakes and ladders can be played outside by using a large playground board. You can also teach any times table you want outdoors by using large times table activity panels.
Similar items are available using letters, such as alphabet snakes and vowel crocodiles. Apart from lesson times, they can be used in games during social times as well, reinforcing the idea that learning is fun.
Games outside have long been part of the curriculum but Maths, English and Science are all easily taught in the open air. Apart from specific lessons there are many advantages to being outside. The environment is important in learning and children concentrate well in fresh air. It is also easier to give restless children a ‘brain break’ by letting them jump up and down. There are many designs for outdoor classrooms and, as well as school shelters which mean that children can work outside with all the benefits that it brings, and still have specific work areas to use.
Unless the weather is very inclement, outdoor learning is a useful part of the curriculum. Children like to grow things and many schools have outdoor planters. Here children can grow their own flowers and vegetables. Imagine the thrill of eating carrots that you have grown yourself. Just watching plants grow is fascinating for children. Drama can also easily be learnt outside, and an outdoor production is perfect for performances – you can even get your own amphitheatre. There are also lots of products available to help children’s creativity – ideal for a Drama or an English lesson. One of my favourites has to be the yellow submarine – sadly noting like this was available when I went to school.
Schools are much more fun now. Creativity and learning through play are all encouraged. Children learn in their break times as well as their lessons. Outdoor learning is a way to enhance these experiences.