Back to Basics: Learning Outdoors
3 March 2021
We live in a digital age, where students are reliant on information at their fingertips. They often expect to be able to use their devices to access information in the classroom, so when we have taken our students away from this traditional method of learning and into the outdoors we hear amazing comments such as ‘It really boosts our confidence’ and ‘Being able to have fun outside with your friends and at the same time learning and taking part in activities‘. We noticed an increased motivation towards learning and they begin to learn to notice basic concepts, such as the leaves being different colours of green, along with gaining the knowledge and understanding for this.
Over the last 4 Years, Windermere School Science department has set up a model using the outdoor setting as an integral part of delivering the National Curriculum Key Stage 3 programme. We have developed our curriculum in such a way that it allows about 40% of the curriculum to be taught outdoors, running loosely with the digital platform Kerboodle, so that students have an additional way of consolidating concepts. With this delivery, Outdoor Science, as it has been named, the benefits are clear to see.
We believe that outdoor learning has a big impact on our students. They become more engaged Scientists, who are more motivated and are more prepared to take risks and fail when outside. We support them by using clear instructions and encourage them to assess the risks as they learn. Students have first-hand knowledge of how Science fits into the environment in which they live and the context in which it can benefit them. This influences laboratory-based lessons when they progress through the school. Lower ability students are engaged with Science at a higher level and ask “why?” much more often. The extra skills learned, also include resilience, teamwork; all benefit wellbeing in both students and staff.
When asked about learning outdoors the students commented: ‘It helps me focus’, ‘We learn and conduct experiments in the fresh air without the pressure of the classroom environment’ and ‘It has made me more interested in the topic and the science around it’.
As a school we have the unique environment of the Lake District, which lends itself to learning outside, however, this way of teaching could be developed in any school from inner-city London to small village school, looking at the local environment and the opportunities available. Delivery could just as easily be done on a field or on a playground in any school. It could be done by individual teachers or through partnerships with local companies or people.
Today’s education has to be more than just academic. With the rapid progress in technology and the climate crisis at the top of our agenda, it is imperative that we teach our students about the world in which we live. To respect and nurture all the resources we have at our fingertips, and not just stare at a screen, but use it to benefit us all. It is less about the selfishness of humans and more about the selflessness of nurturing our environment and each other.
– Mrs Claire Holmes