It's Outdoor Classroom Day on 7th November! Teacher and #GetOutside Champion, Debs Butler, gives us her 5 top ideas for getting the kids learning outside this Autumn.
I’m a PE teacher by trade, so happy to be outdoors in all weathers. This year I’m teaching some maths too, and regularly subject my maths classes to the outdoors when there’s a chance to enhance their learning. So far that’s included activities like estimating then calculating the height of various school structures. It’s fun and memorable to practise skills in ‘real life’ situations – sometimes it’s just nice to get outside!
Chances are if you’re reading this on the OS GetOutside website, you already know this, but maybe you’d like to get a few more of your colleagues on board, and look at making it a real event in your school. Here's 5 of my top suggestions to help you do just that.
1. Start now!
There’s just under a month to go, so start getting other on board now. Approach your SLT and a few staff that you think will like the idea and be keen to plan some of their own lessons.
I’m a secondary teacher, so for me that usually means hitting up a few colleagues in departments like geography, science, drama. Then when you come to sell the idea to the whole staff, there are some people who have already starting thinking about their awesome outdoor lessons and can help you persuade others. Planning in advance also helps with…
2. Don’t be tokenistic
It doesn’t enhance learning to find a random outdoor lesson that has been planned by someone else, for someone else and chuck it into your sequence of lessons.
By thinking ahead, you can consider what you will be learning with your class(es) that week, and how spending some time outside could support and improve learning in that area. There’s lots of ways that learning outside could benefit, including providing concrete examples of more abstract or challenging topics.
Last year my citizenship classes were in the midst of learning about globalisation. We spent our outdoor classroom day playing a game that was adapted from a cut & stick activity involving carrying water to represent a family’s daily water needs. There were bonus cards and challenges – the village pump drying up for example. After carrying half full buckets of water over little distances, we compared the real life distances that people walk for water, read some stories of children who get the water for their families and answered some questions in normal exercise books (the books did end up with a bit of grass in).
3. Get by with a little help from your friends
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what lessons will look like outside. There are worries around whether the children will conduct themselves properly, and things like where/how the children will sit when you need to give instructions. It’s good to think this through. If you’re not sure how it will work in practice then find someone on the staff who is really confident and experienced with this, or go and watch a PE lesson.
Good PE teachers are excellent at getting children from pairs to fours to teams, to be in the right place to see a demo clearly, sitting the children so they aren’t squinting into the sun/watching another lesson/mesmerised by nearby strimming.
4. Get online.
There are so many ideas available online, including full lesson plans. Fellow GetOutside Champion and teacher Alan Parkinson wrote this article last year including links to some recommended resources. Remember point 2 above whilst you’re finding all this wonderful stuff though! If you do something that works really well, share your ideas, and help others enjoy some outside time.
5. GetOutside more, more often.
It’s great to have high profile campaigns like Outdoor Classroom Day. It’s also great to get outside whenever you can.
If you find a lesson you think would really benefit your children, but not necessarily on 7th November, do it anyway on a different day. Share it with your colleagues if it goes well. Take a load of pictures for your school’s media pages (within your permissions obviously). Refer back to it later, reminding children about what they were learning about.
You’ll have fun and the children will too!
Find out more about Outdoor Classroom Day. There is still time for you to sign up, so put your school on the map now! Plus, you'll find #GetOutside Champion and Teacher, Debs Butler at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, National Conference on Nov 7th this year, so please say hello if you are going!
P.S. Maps are also great way to get kids learning outside, check out our mappy inspiration here.