Monday, 1 February 2016

The Benefits of Curriculum Learning Outside the Classroom

Despite our obvious fears we can quickly get beyond the assumption that outdoors is for play and indoors is for learning in a school environment. Utilising our outdoor spaces be it a small patch of tarmac or some unused woodland presents us with an opportunity to engage and stimulate our learners. Here are some suggestions as to why we should get outside more often during lessons:

By Andy Carley
  • Children grow, learn and thrive better when connected with the natural world. They are biologically designed to be in it.
  • The pace of learning is important. Creating time to think and reflect through a sense of ‘slowliness’ can be very powerful.
  • Learning through adventure and experience is ‘hard wired’ into children and should be strongly nurtured. It tends to be adult attitudes and curriculum pressures that are often the barrier!
  • Learning outdoors and in a less structured environment can be more relaxing for many learners. 
  • We can use outdoor learning to create a ‘growth mindset’ in our young people – attitudes of “I can do it” and “let’s try again”. 
  • Curiosity, creativity and imagination can be easily catered for outdoors. As can resilience and collaboration (we don’t need to over structure or over manage the experiences).
  • We must allow for failure, setback and adversity in our learning. Also that ambiguity and even a little ‘chaos’ can be a positive thing!
  • Risk is an intelligent behaviour – we must allow for risk taking (within limits) and learn from it. There will be bumps and scrapes and the occasional accident.
  • When it comes to learning outside the classroom we must think ‘and’ not ‘or’. It’s not either indoor or outdoor learning but combining the two. Outdoor learning can help to provide context and meaning.
  • Mindsets and behaviours can easily shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ to allow for greater collaboration and team/group based activities.
To create a culture of learning outside the classroom in your school do your best to involve the whole school community. All staff including support and service staff, parents, siblings, Governors etc. Explain the benefits and outcomes to get everyone on board. Consider why we are doing this. Is it PR or pedagogy - ‘bloodstream’ or ‘bolt-on’?

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