Top 5 ways to get children learning outdoors

Rob Cassidy

Rob Cassidy is the Marketing Manager at Canopies UK, the leading designer, manufacturer and installers of school canopies. They are huge advocates of active learning in schools, having launched an initiative called Operation Playground which provides five free lesson plans to schools with the aim to get children outdoors and creating their own playground games.

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Using lessons to get children outside can provide an imaginative and fun way of teaching them about the world around us. From the history of the local area to the weather, here are five ideas on how you can use outdoors to offer new ways of teaching.

Create a Class Garden


A good way of getting kids to see how things grow is by creating a class garden. Many teachers have often asked their class to plant seeds, such as cress, to show how plants grow and talk about germination. However, going one step further and having a class garden can help youngsters to learn about and grow different plants, as well as getting them to care and appreciate what they have achieved. Planting vegetables can also be a good way of helping children to identify what they eat, as well as eventually showing how it can make healthy meals or give something back to the local community at Harvest Festival.


Educational Treasure Hunt


When the weather is dry, an educational treasure hunt is a good way of testing your class to see how much they have learnt, as well as helping to build key skills such as teamwork. Writing a series of clues that include both an educational task, as well as pointing children towards the location of a next clue, can test how much they have learnt in the previous year, across a term, or even across the whole year. Prizes can be some free time in the classroom or more in-line with what teachers already offer children for doing great work.


Example:

“To give you the last clue,
Face where the sun rises,
Between number three and number five,
Here’s where you’ll find the directions to the prize.”

Weather Observation


"Why not try getting them to do their own Art Attack moment by using school equipment such as beanbags to create an artistic drawing on the ground?"


Children often look at the different seasons and how this affects trees, plants and life around them. However, a good way to show how different seasons have different weather is to take them outdoors throughout the year and talk to them about the sun, how clouds work and how snow is formed. You could also get a weather observation station and get the kids to go out each morning to record how much rainfall has dropped since the previous morning, the direction of the wind and also the temperature. This can then be recorded on a class table, which they can count up. For children of an older age, you can also talk about different types of cloud and get them to identify and record this too.


Using outdoors to be artistic


Taking kids outdoors to sketch what they see can be a great way of getting them to try different methods of drawing different things such as plants, trees, birds or buildings. Children sometimes have extremely vivid imaginations, so one way of using this to an advantage is by giving them an area to sketch and then add their own ideas into it using different techniques and materials (paint, crayon). Or why not try getting them to do their own Art Attack moment by using school equipment such as beanbags to create an artistic drawing on the ground? Art projects can also be tied into different subject areas; for example, getting them to outline a map of Europe/the world on the playground using cones and then getting them to identify where different capital cities or countries are.


Animal Identification


You can use the outdoors to get children to try and see if they can observe and find as many insects and animals as possible in the playground area. In summer this could be insects like bees, ladybirds and butterflies and also animals like woodlice and beetles. You could also get them to observe different kinds of birds, note the colour markings of different ones and then see if they can identify them using books.


Whilst there are many ways of providing fun activities for children both inside and outside the classroom, the world around us provides us with many great opportunities. Outdoor activities can help keep kids’ attention throughout the day as well as giving them some memories that may help them remember what you teach them. There really is no place like the outdoors!

Do you ever get the chance to teach outdoors? Let us know in the comments.

’Tiverton: Two Moors Primary School Kitchen Garden’ by Lewis Clarke is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0
2‘ Bowl of Clouds’ byKevin Dooley is licensed under CC-BY-2.0
3 Photo by Weinstock is licensed under CCO 1.0
4 'Blue Tit’ by Tony Smith is licensed under CC-BY-2.0

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