Students from our Ornithology class birding outside of the classroom.
2/27/17 Scituate, MA
With the coming of the beautiful weather and turning the corner to spring, I hope you will consider getting your students outside for a change of venue and enhanced learning experience. There is plenty of supportive evidence that is out there surrounding getting kids in the out of doors. This is a quote from part of a comprehensive research study surrounding the outdoor education experience…
“Outdoor education definitely has something to offer. A particularly impressive strength would seem to be that outdoor education programs can trigger in participants an ongoing cycle of personal growth, as evidence by the positive follow-up findings.” (Neil and Richards, et al)
I hope you work for a school or administration that is supportive of getting your kids outside. I am blessed to work in a school district that strongly supports the outdoor eduction movement. I also realize the content of what I teach (Ornithology, Astronomy, Meteorology and Oceanography) lends itself to getting outside. However, that being said, there are plenty of outdoor chances for any classroom. Whether it be for one class period or a few times a year, just the stimulation of being outside gets your brain to function differently, opens up your senses to different experiences and allows kids and you as the teacher to process everything outside has to offer, in a more stimulating way. Here is a great resource if you need more supportive evidence for the ‘decision makers’ at your school…
The “cover yourself at all times” part of me asks you to make sure you check all allergies (bee stings, food, etc) and any other medical concerns, obviously, prior to going outside. Also, be sure you are clear with your students that being outside is a privilege and that can be lost if behavior is not at its best. Be sure you are very clear with your kids what your expectations are regarding being outside and what the goals of being outside are going to be for that class. Most kids will understand the benefit and value of it and actually be on better behavior and excited for the chance to be in nature.
Some simple outdoor classroom guidelines that have been helpful to me…
- Be clear with kids about why you going to be outside.
- You facilitate class in a place that allows for some natural distraction, but tries to eliminate human made ones. For example, conducting class near the busy and noisy road is probably not the best idea.
- Be sure all of your students stay within eye shot of the group. Seems obvious, but be aware of wanderers.
- Tell kids a bit about the research that exists surrounding learning outside.
- Be aware of allergies and sunburn!
Done effectively and with purpose, the outdoor classroom can really be a tremendous experience for both you and your students.