Kate Stockings, the Head of Geography at Hampstead School in the London borough of Camden, reflects on her recent online outdoor learning training.
Beginning the Nature Friendly Schools Journey!
To kickstart our involvement in the Nature Friendly Schools project, I took part in two webinars covering an Introduction to Outdoor Learning.
Divided into three sections, the webinars aimed to inspire us with regards to the project, empower us to facilitate outdoor leaning and finally, challenge us to apply this learning to an individual action plan.
The two webinars were fantastic and certainly did achieve these aims- they left me feeling keen to get going and begin to build a culture of outdoor learning within our school. Here I reflect on this training and hopefully will inspire others to get involved!
There is one particular quote that has stuck with me from the training; one that I think would serve as a good starting point for many teachers:
“I have never heard of anyone involved in the education system in the UK being asked the question ‘why do you want to teach indoors?’, whereas every teacher I know who has suggested taking their students outdoors has been asked why they wanted to do so.”
Higgins, P, 2009, Why indoors? The role of learning in sustainability, health and citizenship.
I suppose this stuck with me because (certainly for me) it is true. As a geography teacher I inherently value the natural world and the great outdoors and yet far too frequently, resort to teaching about the outdoors from an interactive whiteboard screen and rows of desks- rather than getting outside! Why is this? Well I suppose it’s because of the barriers that exist, or I perceive to exist, that stop me from taking students outdoors. That’s exactly what this project has set out to change and work with teachers to overcome.
When asked to name the barriers that exist to outdoor learning, many that we gave are probably familiar to every teacher: behaviour, resources, expectations, space limitations and time restrictions. However, we then worked together to discuss and share solutions to overcome these barriers- empowering us to deliver outdoor learning effectively. Whilst every school setting is different, I certainly felt like the time to pause and reflect on what could be changed left me with renewed confidence and determination to work to overcome these barriers, rather than simply stating them as an excuse!
So, with a refreshed perspective, it was time to apply these principles and plan an outdoor learning activity before evaluating it with fellow teachers. A choice of six scenarios was given and we could choose which aim we wanted to achieve with our activity. Personally, I chose to plan an activity that aimed to provide opportunities for children to find places of calm- to pause and reflect, to put down their phones and simply enjoy being outside. Sharing our thoughts and resources with the fellow teachers was fantastic and served to continue to inspire me and I left the two sessions eager to implement the ideas!