Ok so I’m not a school or an educational establishment but I am an experienced primary school teacher and a Mum who loves to get her kids outdoors so the idea behind Outdoor Classroom Day is something I am fully on board with! So much of our children’s learning takes place indoors now, often sat at tables or even screens – prescribed by a restrictive curriculum and statutory testing. In fact 1 in 8 primary school children gets less than 30 minutes of outdoor playtime on an average day. But this is missing out on the most incredible of learning opportunities. Children have a natural thirst for knowledge, a need to learn and a desire to explore new things. All too often I fear this is squashed out of them by fronted adverbials and complex mathematical language.
Outdoor Classroom Day encourages teachers to take learning outdoors – last year over 2 million children got involved in thousands of schools from over 100 countries – some trying this for the first time, others celebrating the work they already do in getting children playing and learning outside. Play is so very important – not just in allowing children to enjoy their childhood but also in teaching critical life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and creativity. These are not things which are taught sat at a desk!
Sir Ken Robinson, leading expert in education, creativity and human development, and Chair of the Dirt is Good Child Development Advisory Board, comments:
“Play is not a dispensable, frivolous part of childhood. It facilitates many forms of development – social, creative, physical, cognitive and emotional – that are fundamental to the healthy growth and maturity of every child. Children must have the time, space and permission to engage in a variety of play, which schools can offer and encourage parents to make real play part of the everyday.”
In celebration of Outdoor Classroom Day, Persil challenged me to plan three activities to help my children learn something new outdoors – by exploring, touching and getting dirty – not just being told.
1. I Spy Treasure Hunt
For this activity I wanted to tap into Amy’s new found love of letters and sounds – she’s obsessed with spotting letters and words in her environment and trying to read them. Knowing that I had an afternoon with just Amy and her best friend Amelie I focused specifically on Early Years skills of hearing initial sounds, reading letters and attempting to write letters. I created the girls an “I Spy Treasure Hunt” sheet with some letters of (making sure I already had ideas of things we might find – no point sticking X on the sheet when we were walking in our local country park . . . ) and told the girls I wanted them to go on an “I Spy Treasure Hunt” to find me things on our walk that started with the letters on their sheet. Within moments they had spotted geese – they told me it started with “g” and tried to sound out the word before Amy had a really good go at writing it down. I was thrilled with how invested they became in trying to complete the sheet, finding things I hadn’t even thought of and also pointing out why certain things couldn’t go on the sheet!
2. Den Building in Delamere Forest
This time I wanted to focus on soft skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution and creative thinking so I took my little team down to the forest and challenged them to build a den for their favourite cuddly toys. Ben is no stranger to den building – I don’t really know how he developed this skill but he seems to have a fairly good grasp of what he needs to do. As such the girls were happy to allow him to lead the project but this didn’t stop them debating things with him if they disagreed with his decision. As well as the problem solving skills and spatial awareness that building the den required, all three children demonstrated that they were able to work as a team, discuss their ideas and solve conflicts with next to no intervention from Dave and I – we were very impressed! (And you know what? They had a whole lot of fun doing it!)
3. Planting seeds and growing plants
For our final activity I wanted to take a look at how plants grow – where they come from, what they need to grow and also to learn the names for the different parts of the plant / flower. This meant that whilst all three children were doing the same thing I could tailor my questions or different bits of the task to their own level – Amy is only just starting to learn about plants and seeds whereas Ben could confidently name most of the parts of the plant. As we were buying various seeds and plants, Chloe asked if we could plant a hanging basket and, ever a fan of child led learning I went along with that!
We have absolutely loved working with Persil on this campaign and I’m already planning how we can use our outdoor classroom next!
Will you be getting involved in Outdoor Classroom Day this year? Either as a parent or your children in school?
*This post was commissioned by Persil in celebration of Outdoor Classroom Day*