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Teaching and learningOutdoor lessons – outdoorsplan for success schoolsTaking learning outdoors can transform lessons. Don’t be daunted –plan for success, follow a few key strategies and you will be inspired to Be preparedtake children outdoors even more. • Check the outdoor area you wish to use will be free when you need it.Learning outdoors brings teaching alive – especially for practicallearners. Fresh air and natural light stimulate the brain. Noisy • Collect together all the extra resources you may need and checkbehaviour and making a mess is allowed. The relationship between you have enough of everything.teachers and children changes, and concepts that are abstract theoriesin the classroom can be brought to life. The outdoors is also a free • For written work supply clipboards and pencils (easier to write with ifresource with huge potential – offering many and varied teaching and there is a shower) and take spares.learning opportunities. Making learning outdoors a success means planning activities that • Depending on where you are settingare as fun, stimulating and active as possible while ensuring they are your boundaries, you may need amanageable and relevant. By maintaining the children’s interest and distinctive noise maker (such as aengagement in the activities they will be more likely to stay on task and whistle, duck caller or small bell)less likely to become distracted by others or their surroundings. to gather the children back. • Take a phone/watch for keeping Make yourself heard! an eye on the time. • Check that outdoors the children • Be prepared with extra activities will be able to hear you. If, for example, outside for quick workers. the field is being mown, or there is an • Decide in advance who will take outdoor performance practice, will it be the equipment out and how the too noisy for you to be heard? equipment will be collected and • Position yourself so the children have brought back in. their backs to the sun when they look • Ensure everyone (children and adults) at you, and so your voice travels is prepared for all weather – sun downwind. cream and hats if it’s hot; rain coats • Avoid the tendency to call or talk too and wellies in case of rain etc. loudly to the children. • Have a contingency plan in case the • Praise the children who are showing weather really is too bad to go out. that they are listening to you. Learning through Landscapes May 2011
Top tip Be brave – the best sessions will be those where you are trying new things and breaking new ground10 steps to running a great activityThere is no right way to run all outdoor activities but here aresome guidelines that will help make it a success for everyone. Once outdoors 7 Define the space the children can use For some, general instructions (for example, stay on the field) may be good enough;Before you go out for others you may need to use markers such as rope lines or PE1 Organise your groups Doing this in advance will help ensure markers. If the children need to work away from the main gatheringchallenging children are supported either by their peers or adults. point, agree a signal for calling everyone back together.Keeping such children close to an adult will provide them with the 8 Give each member of a group a specific job They couldsecurity and support they need to remain on task and get the be a note-taker, photographer, collector, sketcher etc. Givingmost out of the experience. younger children a sticker stating their job title will help them2 Devise a reward and sanctions system If the children are feel more responsible and everyone will be clear as to their role.used to receiving points or merits in the classroom, this can easily If other adults are available make sure they also have a clearlybe continued outdoors. Or why not ask the children to design a defined role which may involve working with a particularcertificate which could be awarded to the most sensible or hard group or supervising a designated area.working individual or group? 9 Gather the children back together at regular intervals so3 Give clear expectations for behaviour If these rules have that you can share their work, praise them, re-affirm the rulesbeen negotiated with the children and reflect the normal class and boundaries and set new challenges. This will help to refocusrules, there is a greater chance that the children will have a sense the children and keep them on task.of ownership over them, understand them and follow them. 10. When getting ready to move back inside ask the children4 Share objectives and outcomes Making the purpose of the first if they can remind you of the expectations of appropriatesession very clear will ensure that the children see the trip outside behaviour to ensure a calm transition.as a learning opportunity rather than playtime.5 Decide on procedures for toilet trips as well as taking a And don’t forget... to share your workbreak, emergencies, etc. Ensure that all the children and adults If possible, find an opportunity to share the work you did outdoorsare aware of these. Some schools use a band or token system to with the rest of the school via a display or assembly. This will helphelp keep track of children’s movements. to illustrate the learning that has taken place. If you can involve6 Explain the timetable of events Outline where you will (and your more challenging children in this it will give them a greaterwill not) be going while outdoors and what you will do when you sense of ownership and they are more likely to be highly motivatedget there so the children know in advance what to expect. and stay on task on the next visit outdoors. ‘Gather the children back at regular intervals to praise... and set new challenges’May 2011 Learning through Landscapes
Consider comfort... Keep children on task and focused outdoors construct temporary shelter for protection by making sure they can work in comfort. from a cold wind, rain or sunshine. This means they need to be wearing suitable clothing, have somewhere to sit • Parasols are good for small groups; marquee style tents and gazebos are when necessary, and somewhere to shelter easily and safely erected and can be from the sun, wind or rain. packed down for convenient storage. Clothing • Fabric or plastic netting, available fromIdeas galore! Schools are often put off going outdoors garden centres and haberdashers, can be stretched over a frame betweenEvery school has a range of features – because of the uncertain nature of the weather. Being prepared for all eventualities vertical posts or between walls andboundaries, trees, tarmac, fields, open will prevent outdoor lessons being covered in twigs, grass, flowers,spaces, small spaces, buildings, cancelled at short notice. pieces of fabric.surfaces, ponds, natural areas (eventhe weather!) – that offer a wealth of Keep plenty of appropriate clothing • Trees and tall shrubs in containersopportunity for learning and supporting readily available – wellies and waterproofs thatcan be wheeled about (using,the whole curriculum. Indeed, your for when it’s wet, sun hats and suncream for example, a janitor’s trolley) canoutdoors, in whatever condition, for when it’s hot. provide shade and shelter where it’sprovides opportunities simply not most needed. Seatingavailable in the classroom. And the Somewhere for children to sit is alwayschildren deserve fresh, new ideas – as do useful when teaching outdoors, whetheryou! But where to start? Think about: you need room for a whole class to sit• using existing features for study. down together and listen to instructions These could include natural features and explanations, somewhere where such as hedges, ponds and trees or written work can be done, or simply a man-made features such as surfaces, base for children to return to. buildings and boundaries. Either use existing seating in the school• using your grounds as a setting. grounds or if dry, an area of grass. If the Open spaces are ideal for exhibitions, ground is wet consider bringing out mats performances, re-enactments and or benches to sit on. processions as well as exploring Shade and shelter scale and speed. They also offer Unless you are lucky enough to have an great opportunities for loud and existing outdoor classroom, awning or a messy activities including science tree with a large canopy, you may need to experiments and art work.• creating something new for your grounds. Even small spaces offer opportunities to get growing FAQ How can I school value the work that takes place outdoors and regard it as ‘proper’ work, (container gardening and climbing get my colleagues they will sense this and behave plants), encourage wildlife (log piles, bird feeders etc), create artwork on board? appropriately. If, however, outdoor A school that has a positive approach lessons are rare and undervalued by and create a storytelling area. to outdoor learning provides a stream adults, the children are less likely to seeFor our ever-expanding library of its value and the likelihood of poor of messages to its adults and childreninspirational outdoor activities behaviour increases. that learning outdoors is vital andsupporting the curriculum visit If you are teaching in a school that valued. This might be through curriculumwww.ltl.org.uk/resources. has not yet developed outdoor learning, opportunities, providing resources to support outdoor learning, displays you have the power to influence not only celebrating outdoor activities or simply your class but your colleagues too. through the emphasis that is given to Through sharing ideas and success, you maintaining and/or developing the will have a positive impact on how others school grounds. view the use of the outdoors as a And if children are learning in an classroom. And by making it work for environment in which all the adults in the you, others are sure to follow. Learning through Landscapes May 2011