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Outdoor learning is not as simple as just being outside…by Muddy TA Emma Jones.

Outdoor learning.

People’s attitudes to outdoor learning differ so greatly and are seemingly irrespective of age or level of qualification. Where some teachers simply cannot stand the idea of spending so much as a second indoors, others are as repulsed as they are confused by the idea of going outside. How can you possibly meet the national curriculum objectives in a field? What about the weather? Surely a class is easier to control when sat down indoors?

That last one is a big issue to many and, in some ways, they are right: children are easier to control when they are sat in rows, not allowed to so much as breathe without permission. But those pupils are not just ‘well-controlled’ – they are lacking in reasoning and problem-solving skills, physically defected by too long spent on chairs and, often, bored.

‘Control’ is not the ultimate mark of an effective teacher. Rather, we need to see ourselves as enablers, there to empower our pupils to take control of their own learning instead of resisting their preferences and wondering why they then resist us back.

The perfect example of this is when we take our children on adventures: long hikes to a local hostel, where they spend two days building dens, pond-dipping, planting seeds, compiling bug hotels and assembling fires. Inevitably, there is always someone – teacher or parent – who questions if we are quite sure it is safe to allow that pupil to perform such potentially dangerous activities. They are concerned that the pupil with high SEND needs or disruptive behaviour will see the sticks as weapons, the river as a swimming pool and the fire as a toy.  And why shouldn’t they be? That pupil is a blazing tornado in their classroom lessons.

Yet, when they come on our adventures, they cease to be that pupil and start being the remarkable inventors and caring individuals that they really are. They show you ways of thinking that you, with your adult brain, could never have thought of and demonstrate levels of commitment and resilience like no other. You see them smile properly for the first time and catch glimpses of the true energy within them. Contrary to the concern that they will, literally, set the school on fire, they prove to be sensible and respectful of the world around them. In short, take a disruptive child outside and watch the resistance ease away.

Outdoor learning is not as simple as just being outside, though. Whilst the fresh air and physical movement have fantastic benefits to physical and mental health, it is the teacher’s change in mindset and approach that have the greatest effect on pupil learning and behaviour. The idea that children should be sat and talked at is as outdated as it is ineffective, and it is little wonder that such approaches lead to pupils struggling to focus. Granting pupils the freedom to control the pace and route of their learning leads us down paths we would not have found ourselves, ultimately leading to a deeper learning experience for teacher and pupil.

I am incredibly fortunate to work with the little diamonds I get to care for in an environment that I love but, more than anything, I am lucky to be able to see those gems shine in the ways they choose, when and how they want to show me. After all, there is nothing like nature to remind us of how little control we really have and how amazing life can be when we give them space to do their thing.

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Here are 3 top outdoor learning ideas to get you started :

  1. Make sure the children have the right clothing – bring a muddy bag in or dress for mud that day!
  2. Make it messy and muddy – why not you are outside!
  3. Stick to natural resources – less clearing up for you and more kind to the environment.

Our muddy resources support all curriculums and we use only natural resources so any school, anywhere can use our approach. Including Early Years Framework, NC, CfE, American Curriculums.

Looking for a group subscription? We offer big reductions for schools and nurseries that book in groups. The more staff the more the discount per person. Click here for a quote.

Outdoor learning in primary schools is an essential way to bring wellbeing to the classroom.

Here are some muddy top tips to make a start in each key stage.

  • Outdoor Learning KS2 – Try taking 10-minute slots or brain breaks in between sessions. Do the Muddy Walk and Talk and just use it for general discussion or chat.
  • Outdoor Learning KS1 – Try taking phonics games outside. Choose a sound and use leaves
  • Outdoor Learning EYFS – If you can make sure there is an outside space that is accessible and start to reduce the plastic and have more natural objects. Such as leaves they can write on, stones to do art with. Strip back the made plastic objects and keep natural for optimum imagination and creative skills to be used.
  • Outdoor Learning KS2 – Try taking 10-minute slots or brain breaks in between sessions. Do the Muddy Walk and Talk and just use it for general discussion or chat.
  • Outdoor Learning KS1 – Try taking phonics games outside. Choose a sound and use leaves
  • Outdoor Learning EYFS – If you can make sure there is an outside space that is accessible and start to reduce the plastic and have more natural objects. Such as leaves they can write on, stones to do art with. Strip back the made plastic objects and keep natural for optimum imagination and creative skills to be used.

For more outdoor learning ideas for primary schools, sign up for FREE! If it is active learning you are looking for try GoNoodle a great way to get kids moving inside the class.

Watch the MPT safety videos to help you practice the best outdoor learning methods. These videos are also useful for those practising forest school.

Search for more outdoor learning resources : Babies (0-2) | Tots (2-4) | EYFS (4-5) | KS1(5-7) | LKS2( 7-9) | UKS2 (9-11) | Special Needs

For Training head to: Accredited Training | Short Certificate Courses

Have you also checked: Outdoor Ebooks | Assembly Packs | Home Learning Packs | Safety Support | Special Outdoor Events

  • Support Outdoor Learning charities and head to Learning through Landscapes who can help with free outdoor learning ideas.
  • Institute for Outdoor Learning are also a fabulous charity to refer to if you want to gather ideas for outdoor learning training and organisations.
  • Look out for Green Flag Award to promote outdoor learning in primary schools through the muddy puddles approach.

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