10th June 2021
As we finally come into the summer months, the weather gives teachers an opportunity to inspire a love of nature and the outdoors in their students. Children and young people have spent more time than usual cooped up over the last year, and there are so many benefits to taking learning outdoors:
In 2016 the DfE published a report on the findings of a four-year study into the impact of teaching more lessons outside – specifically, turning the outdoors into an extension of the classroom. Some key findings from the project:
With careful planning and firmly set rules in place, taking your lessons outside gives your pupils a fully sensory experience that benefits their wellbeing and cognitive development in lots of different ways. We’ve put together some ideas for getting outdoors – and some suggestions if you don’t have available space for outdoor learning too.
Develop A Nature Area
Most schools in the UK have some outdoor space that could be utilised for a nature area. Allowing an area to grow wild and observing the natural life cycles of the plants and insects is a wonderful way to bring teaching biology and botany to life. If you are lucky enough to have or to be able to create a pond, every child will enjoy learning and documenting the life cycle of tadpoles, small fish and dragonflies. Creating a special outdoor space for nature can also encourage a real care for the natural environment in pupils of all ages – and the sense of responsibility that comes with developing an area of the school, an insect home, birdhouse or hedgehog hideaway will grow self-esteem and confidence in children that may struggle with more academic-focused learning.
Explore Forest Schools In The UK
Forest Schools is a UK initiative that encourages schools to take part in regular, organised outdoor lessons focussed around nature. Forest Schools are based on the idea of fostering a meaningful connection to nature through problem solving and exploration of the natural environment. Since 2000, many LEA’s have taken up Forest Schools, with locations all over the UK hosting groups of school-age children for regular outdoor sessions with trained practitioners.. If it isn’t something your school currently takes part in, find your nearest FSA-recognised Forest School provider here.
TAKE ANY LESSON OUTSIDE
If you have access to a playground or open space relatively close to your classroom, a bit of imagination can turn any lesson into an outdoor adventure. How about a historical reenactment, or trying out an ancient sport? There’s a great article on National Geographic about defunct Olympic sports that would be a fantastic basis for an Ancient Olympics-themed outdoor lesson. Bad weather? Don’t let it stop you! How about setting up a school meteorological station to measure weather effects in the area? The Royal Meteorological Society provide an in-depth guide to setting up a school weather station here.
TEACHING ABOUT NATURE WITH LIMITED OUTDOOR SPACE
Even if you don’t have a big area to go wild in, there’s still lots of great ways to take learning outdoors regularly. The Royal Horticultural Society has a website dedicated to encouraging gardening schools with lots of ideas for small and non-existent outdoor spaces. If you want something to encourage older pupils to get involved in observing nature around the school, there’s a great project here to build a birdbox from wood, with basic tools. We also love this guide to create an ‘insect hotel’ with the RSPB.
We hope this has inspired you to plan some outdoor activities and lessons during the last half-term of the school year – there are so many benefits to changing up your teaching environment. We’d love to hear about how you have inspiring pupils with outdoor learning – join us on Twitter!
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