THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR SPACE
The outdoor spaces that you have at your disposal, be it small areas of tarmac or extensive grounds provide enormous potential as a context and environment for teaching and learning.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated when we are considering learning of what Andrew Hammond, author of ‘Teaching for Character’ has termed the ‘hidden curriculum’. This being the development in children of character traits such as curiosity, resilience, motivation, empathy, independence, potential etc. These traits, although hidden, are vital and have a direct impact on outcomes in not only the more visible school curriculum, but underpin success later in life such as in marriage and friendships. In our experience they are rarely adequately addressed, nurtured, actively developed and evidenced.
School Outdoor Learning's (SOuL) ethos and approach to teaching and learning is based on a number of educational ‘presuppositions’ that are met when teaching outdoors and lend themselves ideally to
developing the above skills in children. Robust empirical evidence over the last decade supports these and challenges the conventional view of the learning environment, the role of the teacher and learner. The outdoor environment as a context for learning provides the setting for each of the following:
3. MULTI SENSORY LEARNING IS MORE MEMORABLE
All of our five senses evolved to work in unison and the more elaborately we encode experiences during their initial moments, the stronger the memory of it will be. This has huge implications for
teaching and learning which educators have been aware of since the earliest teaching guides (Montessori 1912). Think of a time when you were outside at school (if ever), what we’re you learning about?
The chances are the sensory rich environment with which you found yourself in then have had a direct impact of your ability to remember. Our outdoor settings enable us to engage with our head, heart and hands simultaneously and holds huge potential for learning and
4. STRESSED BRAINS DON'T LEARN AS WELL AS NON STRESSED BRAINS
5. LEARNING THROUGH EXPERIENCE HAS POWERFUL IMPLICATIONS
We are powerful and natural explorers, we learn not by passive reaction to the environment but by engaging with it through active testing, observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion. Our intrinsic motivation to learn and explore is a far more powerful motivator than extrinsic rewards or sanctions and if we are able to work with this instinct in young people rather than against it then we can enable tremendous potential. Any carefully constructed lesson will contain all of the elements listed above, including opportunities to reflect on what went wrong, how to overcome it and learning about self and others. Not only this but learning can be undertaken independently. The space provided by participating in activities outside expands our classroom size exponential and provides vast learning potential.
6. A GROWTH MINDSET IS AN ESSENTIAL FEATURE OF GOOD TEACHING AND LEARNING
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has clearly demonstrated the importance that a growth mindset plays not only in success at school but life and work too. We at SOuL see this body of evidence filtering down into most schools we come into contact with now. Much of education however is focused on fixed testing and measurement and also implicitly values ‘getting things right’. This can dis-incentivise a process of do, reflect, apply - and learning through trial and error. That’s where lessons outside can play a big role. The nature of a curriculum-based activity outside often provides scope for doing by trial and error giving real life and tangible examples of mindsets in action.