Outdoor Classroom Day
On 23 May, schools in the UK and Ireland are invited to participate in the global event, Outdoor Classroom Day.
We all know and understand the benefits of getting learners active and providing opportunities to interact with their environment. The day represents a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. In 2018, this included over half a million children from the UK and Ireland.
But, once you empty the classroom, what can you do next? We asked around and gleaned some fascinating ideas from a variety of sources. They were so good that we have decided to share them with you.
Set in a village, this school encourages outdoor learning in all forms. Immediately evident when you take a look at the school are the wide range of sports and PE sessions, caring for the nature area, and participation in Forest Schools as well as exploring the local area.
Even with all this activity, the school is still keen to upgrade their EYFS Outdoor Learning area further. The community is also encouraged to get behind them to make this vision a reality. Plans are afoot for exciting developments!
Headteacher, Kate Garnett, talked to me about a popular activity amongst the Reception Class called Number Bridges. The pupils begin by choosing a numbered tile, then, they make a bridge using additional tiles, whilst practising their ordinal number skills. The only rule is that the numbers must be consecutive. Escaping into their imagination helps pupils explore the numerical system. It isn’t long before they are counting forwards and backwards. As long as the bridge crosses the rivers and ravines of their imaginations, the pupils are unfazed by the numbers. All the time, of course, they are consolidating their counting.
A simple enough activity, lending itself to learning about tables and sequences with more experienced mathematicians, it is a great way to make Outdoor Learning Day really count in your school.
I also spoke to Rick Goldsbrough, a Sport and Education Development Officer about the Premier League Primary Stars scheme, which promotes active learning. When working with schools, Rick and his team encourage activities such as Plastic Pledge, an active litter picking scheme, as well as guiding schools in organising value driven football tournaments. Rick also plans ‘Thinking PE’ lessons – where physical activities have been linked to English and Maths learning outcomes.
Cardio Active take these ideas even further. By combining theoretical activities with physical exercise, using a 50:50 ratio, learners get to explore ways to keep your heart healthy straight away. The idea behind the lessons can be easily extended into PE coaching sessions and sports science. However, lessons which incorporate this active session with meeting and measuring objectives in maths, for example, would be equally possible. There would be no need to hold the theory lesson indoors either! Most importantly, this approach provides an instant tangible way to tackle otherwise abstract ideas, such as how to maintain a healthy heart.
The Premier League Primary Stars scheme details can be found here: https://plprimarystars.com/
As you might expect, there are a whole host of ideas emerging from the Education Team at Essex Wildlife Trust. From making letters with natural resources and spotting angles and symmetry in nature to making birds’ nests and bug hotels, they have all bases covered.
Lily Chambers, who works with the Communications Team at the EWT, hatched a long list of nature based ideas. It was great to imagine an outdoor puppet show being staged, pupils making 3D shapes with sticks and building dens. But there was an activity that I particularly warmed to which was to create nature trails for others to enjoy.
This activity offered much by way of writing a guide, mapping the route, developing branding and getting to know nature so well you could lead others to it. What it also offers is a way of getting others outside too. Having a nature trail to go on would be a welcome activity for your colleagues to experience with their class. That’s two empty classrooms for the price of one!
The Essex Wildlife team have good reason to be so prepared. They are preparing to continue the outdoor learning theme by leading schools through their ‘30 Days Wild’ campaign, scheduled to run throughout the whole of June. There is more information about this month to be found here: https://www.essexwt.org.uk/protecting-wildlife/campaigns/30-days-wild
You can sign up here: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild
We hope that this has given you some inspiration to get involved in Outdoor Classroom Day 2019. May all your classrooms be empty on 23 May!