Teachers at Swiss Valley Primary are launching an innovative gardening project. According to the Llanelli Star, the school’s pupils were yesterday selling seeds and seedlings at the town’s Indoor Market. This activity mirrors a school garden in Canberra, Australia, where the garden and canteen enjoy a cyclical system.
When it comes to education, it seems that everyone has their own idea about which methods work best in the classroom. Should they be put into mixed groups or streamed by ability? Should we block-schedule lessons? A new website called the Toolkit can help us find the answers to those questions based on evidence, rather than opinion.
We can all agree that when technology is used correctly in the classroom it can both support and enhance learning. However, when we consider outdoor learning, should we be utilising new technological innovations? Or is it vital that outdoor learning spaces continue to provide a tech-free zone for today’s digital children?
Do British pupils get enough of the outdoors during lesson time? What can al fresco teaching offer both students and teachers? Natalie Harling, the Outward Bound Trust’s head of education development, explains why a bit of fresh air can do the education system a lot of good.
Being outdoors is good for you. This is something we are taught from an early age that fresh air and exercise, both indoors and outdoors, are beneficial to our wellbeing. However, as teachers we usually associate the outdoors with playtime, free time and enjoyment. It’s Friday, it’s half term, it’s the summer holidays – and perhaps not as the impactful outdoor place of learning that it can be.
In order to get the most out of a pupil’s mind, they need to be put into a productive environment. Sam Flatman, sales & marketing director at Pentagon, gives his reasons why pupils need to get outside in order to properly develop their minds.
Our kids need more than a concrete jungle - they need a colourful space for their rough and tumble, and to be immersed in the natural environment. Studies show this helps their brain develop just as much as it helps their body. While we can be reluctant to take children out of the classroom – especially as places in those top secondary schools and colleges become increasingly competitive – through innovation and design, playgrounds are being transformed into important learning environments.
The idea of using digital technology outdoors continues to produce an interesting array of feelings from educators. The spectrum seems to range between love and loathing, freedom and fear, or curiosity and curtailment. For me, the lure of a tablet being part of an outdoor activity is the untapped possibilities that we have yet to discover. The value of experimenting and exploring the world around us through a digital eye is worth the time invested. It’s not because I want to see a child glued to a screen outside. It's because I know for some children a mobile device provides alternative ways of exploring the environment which may spark a life-long interest.
There is nothing quite like visiting schools, nurseries and other childcare settings to gain ideas and inspiration. I’m always delighted when I get this opportunity. Sometimes, I am asked about good places to see. In my opinion it is not possible to find a “perfect” outdoor space. Instead I look for elements of good practice, which are worth reflecting upon and remembering. This might be how free flow play is set up in less than ideal circumstances. Or it could be how a muddy area has been developed with children fully involved.
The places that have truly got going with learning and play outside, perceive their outdoor spaces as ongoing works in progress. There is a continuous commitment to valuing and actively using an outdoor space as a place for learning and play. It is a mixture of ethos, physical improvements and careful thought about the variety and potential of a range of activities to happen in an outdoor space.
When visiting another school or establishment, these are my top tips:
Photo credit: striatic