Friday, 17 October 2014
Our outdoor classroom
What forms the backbone of our learning however, and the thing the boys most enjoy, is the outdoor learning. This can be learning about seasons and weather as they ride their scooters through the park, or something more focused such as a bug hunt. We are fortunate to have an amazing park a short drive away with all sorts of different habitats, lots of water ways, formal and informal flower beds and an amazing collection of trees which are often helpfully labelled.
This week Ollie wanted to go searching for water boatmen after watching about them on an episode of 'Minibeast Adventure with Jess' on Cbeebies. We headed off to the park with out nets, the plastic yoghurt buckets that we use for all sorts of things, and a bug viewer. On the way to the shallow muddy pond that I thought might be our best bet for finding some we did a lot of sensory exploration. I pointed out herbs such as rosemary for the boys to smell and try to name, we spend a long time in the rose garden looking at all the different colours and sizes of roses and running around to find our favourite colours and smells of roses, then wove in and out of the bamboos listening to the noise of it rustling and making up stories about panda bears. A heavy fall of sweet chestnuts provided an opportunity to investigate the prickly outside and soft inside of the cases, and peel some chestnuts, all of which had a little maggot munching away inside to the boys delighted interest. We looked at the difference between the leaves on the evergreens and the falling leaves of the deciduous trees. We talked about chlorophyll and why the leaves are changing colour. We compared leaf shapes of the different types of oak growing along the path, the sharp points of the Pin oak, the deep lobes of the Hungarian oak, the small compact lobed leaves of our own English oak. We compared sizes, lining up the leaves we had collected in order of size and hunting for the biggest and smallest leaves we could find.
If I were to write a lesson plan about the activities of the day I would be running into several pages of learning outcomes, including the numeracy outcomes involving shapes and sizes and the physical benefits of running and playing outside. Whether little ones are in school or following the home education path, this type of activity is something which is accessible for every family. It's incredibly cheap - the buckets were left over from buying yoghurt in a far cheaper way than as individual pots and an old tea strainer or sieve are a good stand in for a net if you don't have one. Most of the activities require no equipment at all (just maybe a notepad to write down anything you couldn't answer at the time to look up later - despite a Biology degree, years of teaching outdoors and in a classroom and being well into a Geosciences degree I still get plenty of questions I have to look up at home, even if it's just because it's easier to find a video of rubber being tapped from a tree than to explain it). The only thing you need is to really look, listen and experience things yourself so you can draw your kids attention to interesting things, and respond to them when they bring you things to look at. You are a brilliant teacher and your kids love it.