One of the things I have noticed, when leading training on outdoor learning, are the attitudes of teachers to the outdoor element of the course. All delegates enjoyed working outside during the summer however during the winter training, most want to get back inside as quick as they can. You can’t learn about outdoor learning without getting outside – whatever the weather! The same is applied to teaching outside in the winter – If children see you complaining about being cold and wanting to go back inside they will follow. You need to fake it till you make it! Children take their lead from you! Be active and devise games where you are running around with the children – this will soon warm you up.
Wearing the right clothing is key and makes all the difference – you need to be warm and more importantly dry! Don’t underestimate the need for water and windproof jackets. It is worth investing in a good one from outdoor clothing suppliers.
I was recently introduced to a hot water bottle that warms the neck – one area of my body that does feel the cold! This is a great investment and really does the trick. They are available online from a number of suppliers but the one I have is from eBay. You can also get hand warmers for gloves too!
If your budget allows, it is worth investing in wet weather gear and wellies for the children. However, this can be expensive so ask parents instead. I asked all parents to provide the children with waterproofs and wellies before they started school. As the children moved onto Year One we were left with most of them as the children had grown out of them. If you include this as part of your uniform requirement and inform parents and carers in advance, you will be good to go from the start. I would also suggest that you ask them to provide children with good quality waterproof gloves as woollen gloves are insufficient for most winter weather and one of the main causes of discomfort when they become too cold.
Using ICT outside
I was on my way to work one morning and was looking through early years apps on my phone when I came across SKITCH, an app that enables you to annotate photos by text or simply by writing with your finger. Now I am a bit of a technophobe and always seem to have issues with ICT, however, this was simple and easy to use from the start.
Let it SNOW, Let it SNOW, Let it SNOW!
It is such a shame that when it snows the only children usually outside are from early years. Of course, there are reasons for this such as inappropriate outdoor clothing, lack of spare clothes and space to dry wet coats and gloves.
We need to make the most of snow, when it arrives, and expand our horizons from making snowmen or having snowball fights, and take advantage of this rarely seen (in the south at least) material to provide for numerous learning experiences across the curriculum.
Here are some ideas to get you going:
Welcome to my blog
Welcome to my blog which is about all things early years but with a particular slant on outdoor learning as, although referenced in the Statutory Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage, there are still many schools and PVI settings who, in my opinion, do not get children outside enough. I have been delivering training on outdoor learning for several years, to both primary schools and PVI settings in my capacity as a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) for early years, via the teaching school at West Thornton Primary Academy, Croydon.
I first became aware of the power of outdoor learning as an NQT, teaching my first Reception class. There were so many children who needed to spend more time outside, other than ‘playtime’ as it was apparent that the sedentary activities on offer were not providing for high levels of engagement.
I moved towards an integrated free-flow approach to teaching and learning which enabled children to choose where and with whom they worked – inside and out!
It became apparent that, for many children, more purposeful learning was taking place outside and that I needed to adapt my teaching methods to harness this interest as there were some children who were disinclined to return inside for table-top activities. I soon realised that teaching and learning can happen anywhere, I just needed to adapt my style of teaching and so my interest in outdoor learning was born.
I can’t pass a charity shop or ‘pound shop’ without having a look to see what I can find to add to my resource repertoire and I regularly trawl the internet looking for good ideas that I can implement and pass on to others.
Don’t underestimate the need for natural resources. If you have little in the way of trees then go the local park, common or woods and collect fallen leaves and bags of leaves. You will be amazed at the excitement that this will cause, and all for FREE!