Sunday, 25 October 2015

Learning is everywhere!

Recently in Northern Ireland, inspections have highlighted a discrepancy between outdoor and indoor learning environments. Some educators have taken this to mean that true learning takes place indoors whilst outdoors is more for 'free play' and where children let off steam. 
A main reason for this misconception is that initial teacher training doesn't spend a lot of time on high quality outdoor learning, after all in most primary schools, teachers don't often go outside with their classes. They say be outside during break time in a supervisory role but are not actually outside with their own class engaged in meaningful, sustained learning. Anyone who has been on a playground with 100 plus children will know it can only be a mere supervisory role, you cannot get involved in any in depth play with that many children, nor can any child get into deep play in just 15 minutes.
would ask any primary colleague to try taking their class outdoors for over an hour at least once a week, then they will begin to see true learning through play. They will witness richer language and more social skills in operation than you can ever see when children are sitting indoors behind desks.
As educators we can't believe that children only learn during school hours, they are constantly learning and have been since birth. If you think of all the skills an average 3 year old already has aquired by the time they start preschool, it is quite mind boggling. Many are now coming into school with a basic understanding of a second language. The vocabulary a 3 year old has is amazing if you think that they have probably only been speaking for over a year, on average.
Last week I watched as my class got to experience many curriculum topics in a concrete way whilst outdoors; they watched the postman & food suppliers deliver to the main school, they saw the caretaker fixing things around the school. They don't need to do a jigsaw of a postman or read a book about delivery people to understand rather topic of 'People who help us'! They saw & felt Autumn last week as strong winds made leaves rain down on them in the playground, as a local gardener burned leaves they could also smell it. How much more meaningful is that than hearing me talk about Autumn?
One day a child announced they were trying to 'stabilise' the seesaw, by putting a log under one side of it, since then I have heard others reuse this word in the correct context several times & they even managed to stabilise a plank enough for them to walk between a large tyre and a cable reel. 
"The plank is stabilised"!
As educators of young children, the sooner we realise that learning is constant with those in our classes and that they can learn anywhere and everywhere, the sooner we will begin to see the potential of all environments.
And unless you have a vast indoor space, there are some skills that can only be learned outdoors, like rolling down a hill, climbing up a slide, jumping off a table, moving heavy logs etc. I firmly believe that resilience is best honed outdoors and that it is the key skill anyone needs to remain a learner. All children are learner but sadly some soon learn that their style of learning is not compatible with output more static education system. 
My advice for all educators: get a copy of Juliet Robertson's 'Dirty Teaching' for your school and start seeing the potential of your outdoor space as an equal learning environment. 

I'm adding this to the Whatever the Weather Linky over at Life Unexpected


  1. Love this blog....and stabilise is a big concept for 4 year olds! Where would they get the breadth and depth of learning on offer outdoors?

  2. Well said and argued Kierna. I applaud you for your commitment to outdoors in all weather, and as a learning opportunity as opposed to just a break. I wish you so,well as you continue to provide your excellent teaching to your young students. I always love reading your musings.

  3. Thanks Kierna for mentioning my book. I love the term "equal learning environment" and being biased I would suggest it is "more equal" than indoors as the added value of fresh air, physical activity, higher levels of problem solving and thinking on the spot all make learning outdoors of huge value in every subject area for all ages.

  4. I think calling attention to fact that humans are open to learning all day (and night, for that matter) long is also important. To imagine that a child will/must learn such-and-such from 9 to 10:30 and this-and-the-other from 10:30 to 11:00 and so on just doesn't make sense. Learning is pervasive both indoors AND out. Opening doors, actual doors and perceived doors, is the way to go. Go, go, go. Throw open the doors and the windows and get outside!

  5. I completely agree, there is no need to restrict children to classrooms to learn. My 4 year old has learnt so much and mainly because we're outside a lot. I've also noticed how much he will copy what others say as well (both adults and children) and use it in his language too. He's had some strange words from a young age as he has always been obsessed with trains and we'll often talk about technical train terms!
    Thanks so much for linking up to our #Whatevertheweather linky, you're blog is lovely and very interesting! :) x

  6. I love this so much. I really agree that children should learn outside a lot more. I love the idea of steiner schools and outdoor learning and hopefully will find a good one to send Evie too whe she's older. My mums school is teaching in a different way now and it's brilliant. Instead of getting them to copy things in their books and sit at tables they can choose how they sit. They can choose whether the write on the carpet with chalks, or in books or wherever they feel like they'll remember things more and it seems to be working so well at the moment, but they're also still not getting outside enough. I definitely think that children will learn things more when they're in an environment they'll enjoy.Thank you so much for linking up to #whatevertheweather xx


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