The Coronavirus has changed teaching and learning as we know it. One change that I can really get behind is the increased interest in outdoor learning. My teaching partner, Paula, and I have been strong advocates of outdoor play for years, but it’s great to see that this interest is now spanning different grades and subject areas.
Outdoor learning is about more than just recess. Yes, Paula and I are big believers in the value of free play, and even outside, we really let children own and direct their learning. Experiences like recess can support students in,
- problem solving with peers,
- gross motor opportunities,
- social language,
- and independence.
Paula and I would both stand behind the value in developing these skills. In my opinion though, outdoor learning encompasses the freedom of recess with the additional time, space, and variety of experiences that allow for richer, deeper learning and application of new skills in a different setting.
Just as we plan for and set-up the indoor classroom space, we do the same with the outdoor one. This was true from the very beginning, even before school started.
Now the kids, based on the options that they choose, how they use the space, and their expressed interests, have helped us transform this shared area. We’ve also recently added in a separate outdoor space, where children that need more gross motor play and a big run, can have the opportunity to meet these needs. Amazingly, the discussions around living things that we see in our kindergarten pen area have extended to the field space. The presence of garbage has also added to this learning with a closer look at the environment and what we can do to make a difference.
Below are ten different mini-learning stories that highlight just some of the conversations, questions, thinking, and learning that have come from our time outside.
This is a double one, so I’m counting it as one story. 🙂
Just as we highlight the learning in class each day, we also highlight the learning happening outside through our class documentation blog. If we want parents, educators, and administrators to see and understand the value of the learning happening in this area, I think that we have to showcase it and draw the parallels to program expectations.
What does outdoor learning look like in your class this year? How do you capture and share this learning with others? Has COVID-19 changed how you use your outdoor space? I hope that we can all share what we’re doing in the hope of also learning new ideas and approaches from each other. Together we’re better.