The free teaching resource with incredible potential

Roger Knight

Roger Knight is managing director at Learning Outside, the only manufacturers and suppliers of the LearningOutside System, a new educational system for providing structured outside learning.

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Growing up in a small Kent village as I did, I experienced the wonders of the countryside and the fresh open air. I was lucky that almost every day I spent playing in fields, climbing trees, kicking a ball and experiencing the sights, smells and feel of the great outdoors. In turn, my children and their friends all were able to do the same, always out and about in puddles, fields or a woods.

"Pupils love the rain and puddles - just the experience of getting wet can be a thrill."

Today it is all too common to see children, with the many modern devices available, choosing to look at small screens, Xboxes or anything other than getting outside and having good old fashion fun with their mates. Of course, this is not true of all, but it is a worrying trend that needs to be recognised.

It is with that same desire for the outside that I believe we must teach pupils from an early age that life outside the home, outside the car, and outside the classroom can be fun and a wonderful place to be.

In today’s classroom there are many edtech aids that make teaching an incredible experience for both students and teachers alike. Over my 16 years as a governor I have witnessed the numerous improvements schools have made in the classroom, and this can only be of great benefit for all. The classroom is an area I am sure that will continue to improve as technology quickly moves forward, and we all must embrace those resources as our children will grow up with them.

With this all acknowledged and accepted, there is an incredible resource just outside the classroom door. A resource that is free, it is available to everyone, and is there 24 hours a day. The world outside our classrooms is a wonderful place which finally has started to be recognised as a resource for children of all ages. It is a place for learning, a place for sport, a place for fun, it is flexible and can be whatever you want it to be.

When I became chair of governors I undertook various training sessions. During that time, many of the lecturers were saying “Get the children outside the classroom.” Music to my ears. However not many of those actually saying this could ever really offer guidance as to what was available in terms of curriculum-based learning.

I have spent a lot of time looking into what is available to the schools, and while there are many companies offering various outdoor activities, few can deliver what I would consider real teaching resources. However, my research has shown that the Outdoor Learning section of Innovate My School contains many ideas,reports and guidance for all kinds of teachers.

To get inspired, I look at the grass, the trees, the sky; it is an ever changing environment which offers all types of teaching experiences. Full of wildlife, if you only look a little closer you can learn so much from nature.

We are all part of nature, and if you watch children playing outside you’ll see that they are as one with their surroundings. They can make a whole new world during break time, so imagine what can be done if you bring learning into the environment where they are naturally at their happiest.

I know from my work that children are more open to learning outside, more willing to learn outside and are happier outside. Even in weather conditions where their teacher perhaps would rather be indoors, pupils love the rain and puddles - just the experience of getting wet can be a thrill.

"Make the best of your surroundings, be creative."

Even if you don’t have the funds to buy resources, take the children outside and create a learning environment they will love it and this will be a great step forward.

For example, many schools have already recognised the benefits of a wild area or a garden, and some even have allotments. If you have space outside to create a special area for learning, then this would be a wonderful project and something that will pay the school back time and again in educational value.

Want to take an English lesson outside? Simply sitting on a log and reading a book in the sunshine can be a great learning experience, and something we grown-ups would do without thinking, so why should we not start our young ones off in that way? Counting trees, drawing shapes you can see, being creative with what you can find on the ground, too many things to say about the wonder of the world outside our classrooms.

There will be someone reading this that will be looking out of their window and saying “we don’t have an outside area” or “we only have a yard in a town or city”. Well, that really is not an excuse. Make the best of your surroundings, be creative. The sky is always there, the shapes the clouds make are always different, birds are everywhere and so too are insects and all kinds of plants. Most towns have trees somewhere, and I am sure there are open spaces near most schools, so go on field trips and just enjoy the time outside.

If by reading this I have inspired just one teacher to open the door and take the class outside for a lesson, it has been worth me sitting here, typing these words. It is a truly wonderful place that can be as inspiring as the most advanced computer or the latest mobile phone. Use the resources that nature has provided us with, and you will be helping the children to understand, respect and adore the world around them. I am convinced that you will also be able to teach them in a way that really is more natural and appealing to them.

What do you have to lose? Give it a go; open that door and get them out in the fresh air.

Do you take your pupils outdoors? Share your stories below!

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