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Experience Learning Beyond the Primary Classroom

Experience Learning Beyond the Primary Classroom

Create opportunities to plan and implement activities that will enrich learning and increase your confidence to educate outdoors

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10 Reasons to Take Learning Outside the Classroom

On this damp and dreary day, it might not feel like it, but summer IS here. This final half term when the weather is at its warmest is a better opportunity than ever to explore learning outside the classroom. Learning beyond the classroom offers a whole host of opportunities you’ll struggle to find within confines of your classroom’s four walls, I’ve outlined just a few below.

10 Reasons to Take Learning Outside the Classroom

1. Make learning more engaging

It can be difficult to keep kids on task in the classroom.  Especially as the school year draws to an end and the weather is nice outside and all they want to do is run around like mad things.  Why not take learning outside and let them do just that?  Take maths outside and have children estimate then time how long it would take to run, hop and skip across a field.  They can discuss it outdoors and graph it back in the classroom.

2. Make learning relevant

By taking learning beyond the classroom you’ll find dozens of opportunities to make learning concepts, real and relevant by putting them into a more realistic context.  Many concepts which seem too difficult to get a grasp of in the classroom are a lot easier to understand in the big wide world when they’re set in context, and when the children are more engaged and motivated to understand and learn.

3. Nurture creativity and imagination

Taking kids beyond the classroom is like unclipping their wings.  Suddenly their minds are free to explore and you can often end up with some very creative results no matter what subject you’re teaching them.  For example, instead of learning about castles in the classroom are you able to take your children to a real castle ruins and have them act in role?  You’ll be amazed at how their imaginations run wild – but make sure you know your stuff as they’ll have no end of questions to ask you to help fuel their role play.

4. Develop learning through play and experimentation

We all know that children learn more when they’re happy and engaged.  It’s amazing just how much they can learn through playing.  You can bet that the kids who did the role play in the castle will remember heaps about what life was like for their characters.  Experimenting is also a fantastic way to learn – very young children learn a huge amount about volume and textures by simple things like sand and water play, whilst older children will enjoy becoming nature detectives and learning about minibeasts and their habitats.

5. Improve attendance

If you’re able to build outside play – and visits, into your curriculum and engage and motivate your pupils to learn, you’ll inevitably find that they’re more motivated to turn up to school.

6. Reduce behaviour problems

Whilst learning beyond the classroom certainly means implementing a whole new set of behaviour management processes, on the whole it can often mean a general improvement in behaviour – yet another consequence of children being happy, engaged and motivated.  There are not many children who are likely to act up if the consequence is that the whole class has to go back to learning maths inside…

7. Develop interest in the environment and wider surroundings

Learning outside can give you a great opportunity to teach your pupils about the environment and about your local area.  This is an important part of developing them as responsible citizens that can be difficult to convey in the classroom.

8. Expose children to new opportunities

Learning outside the classroom doesn’t just have to mean wandering around the school grounds, though this is a great place to start.  There is no end of places you can take the pupils that they might not get access to otherwise.  Museums, galleries, zoos and farms can be of great interest or somewhere where they can find out how things are made and maybe even have a go themselves can provide learning experiences that won’t be forgotten fast.

9. Keep healthy

Even if you’re just going to work a few feet from the confines of your classroom, well directed outdoor learning opportunities can offer a great opportunity for fresh air and exercise.  Even pupils who aren’t much interested in PE can usually be tempted by a fun learning game without the pressure of needing to ‘win’.

10. Enjoy almost limitless resources

One of the key benefits of learning outside is that you have the most amazingly well resourced stock cupboard you could hope for – and a lot of it is free.  No matter how tight your school’s budget, so long as you have a good imagination you’ll be able to develop free, meaningful learning opportunities for your children that will stick with them.

So what are you waiting for – it’s time to get outside… though you might need to take an umbrella or two!

  • Making learning more relevant is the best reason to go outside, in my opinion. Maths is everywhere but it is taught in such an abstract way that children don’t consider it relevant.

    All sorts of maths can be brought to life outside, from finding 2D and 3D shapes to finding the height of a tree using trigonometry, there’s always something which will give purpose to the theory.

    The ability to apply skills is, according to a recent CBI report, critical to employability yet absent in many school leavers. Providing situations where learners can apply their skills and problem solve is essential if we are to develop young people who are able to “function” adequately in society.

    • I think you’re right and that maths is an excellent case in point. It’s fantastic being able to make it more relevant, more meaningful, more fun and more memorable all in one go.

      I found these ideas about ideas for taking maths outside whilst researching this post which you might be interested in:

      • Look at the various leaves that you find outside. Find the biggest; find the smallest by finding the area of different leaves.
      • Look for different patterns in the structure of paving, fencing, etc. Why do you think these particular shapes have been chosen? Which is the best for the purpose for which they are used?
      • Look at some of the trees outside – are some trees wider than they are high?
      • Use “Google Earth” to find a plan of an area you have explored outside. Relate actual measurements you have made to measurements on the Google map. What scale is being used for different magnifications?
      • Become aware of the shadows that you are casting. How much bigger is your shadow that you? What about for other people and for other objects?
      • Hide an object in your grounds and construct a “treasure map” with instructions to find the object.
      • Are there any interesting shaped buildings in your grounds? Can you make a scale model of it back in the classroom?
      • Design a garden in a certain area of our grounds. How many bulbs will be needed?
      • How high are the trees in our grounds? If we wanted to fell a particular tree, would it be safe to do this or could it fall and hit a building or any other objects?
      • How long would it take to run across the field?, or around the edge?, or across the diagonal?, etc. How long would it take to hop?, skip?, etc.
      • How many different sorts of patterns can you find (e.g. fencing, roofing, paving, etc.)? Which is the strongest structure? Which is the most cost effective?
      • Look at some of the trees. Are there some that I can hug (i.e. get my arms completely around and hold hands)? Can taller people hug bigger trees?
      • Where could we site a bench? What factors would we need to take into consideration?

      • Some fabulous ideas here !

        I feel very strongly that we need to take advantage of every opportunity to develop “real” understanding not simply provide more and more worksheets which offer nothing more than mundane practise of abstract ideas.

        Understanding can only be developed if there are regular opportunities to apply the skills in everyday situations, going outside and allowing learners to explore and find maths for themselves is a perfect way to do this.

        Allowing learners to find the maths and discuss their ideas is fundamental, yet all too often teachers are reluctant to give up control in such a way. Whether this is due to the restrictive curriculum or possibly the teachers’ lack of confidence would make a great debate. I believe that there would be no need to revisit topics as often as we do currently, if understanding was at the heart of our teaching.

        • I completely agree that, in general, once a concept is fully understood in a relevant context, that it tends to be internalised and retained. I’m not sure what the barriers are to taking learning outside. Definitely worth investigating though as you say because it really brings things alive.

      • Liz Worthen

        For another practical idea for outdoor maths, there was a good Teachers TV video from the Sharing Your Great Practice series which shows a school using their bird feeders as a resource for Year 5 maths – helping them cover data handling among other topics. You can find the short video on Teachers Media at http://www.teachersmedia.co.uk/videos/maths-in-nature

        It’s also a good example of how using real data makes maths more interesting/challenging e.g. explaining why the bird feeder has got heavier rather than lighter on one occasion!

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  • This post has some excellent points.

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  • When investigating look at the excellent work online of Mission Explore ( presentation on Sat. 14/1/12 at BETT for Leatn Live sessions).

  • You wrote superb things…
    I remember a quote – “THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS IN LIFE ARE USUALLY NOT LEARNED IN THE CLASSROOM”.
    And these are basics of life :-)

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  • This is a good summary. For almost 5 years I’ve been blogging about learning outdoors over at “I’m a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!” http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.co.uk. I know it is a rich, satisfying way of working and now I think outdoors first rather than indoors for all lessons and activities.

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