Creating an Outdoor Classroom
5 ‘outdoor’ lesson ideas to enjoy with (or without!) the kids
With good reason, we’re restricted in our movement but we can at least get out once a day on our daily walk and, for those lucky enough, into the garden. I’m not great at being indoors (think caged animal) so where possible, I’ve created an ‘outdoor classroom’ with nature inspired lessons that are interesting to all of us! Here are 5 of my favourite….
1. Spring Flowers and trees
I’ve always been utterly useless at identifying the beautiful wild flowers that pop up at Spring time – I could manage Dandelion and Cow Parsley but that was it. The same goes for trees, I LOVE trees but I can never remember which is a Sycamore (is that the conker one?) and which is a Horse Chestnut!
Oh how things have changed. Since lockdown began we have been identifying wild flowers, and now the leaves on the trees are emerging, we’re starting on trees. In true Enid Blyton-novel style, we can now merrily walk or cycle along the country lanes and recount the wild flowers we see. Geeky? Yes! But also incredibly rewarding and also amazing to see how sponge-like the children’s minds are! Admittedly this new found knowledge might be replacing long division or digraphs but oh well!
Get the tools to learn…
This wouldn’t be possible without the Woodland Trust’s BRILLIANT set of ‘swatch’ books which you can take out and about with you… we’ve got the whole set now and they’re essential for our outdoor classroom. We also use a great free app called the ‘Plant Identifier’, so you can take a photo and it will identify the plant you’re looking at.
2. Create a Natural Rainbow
I’m stealing this idea from a school project set this week. I sent the kids off to scavenge some natural materials from the garden and a local field. I then left them alone to create this beautiful rainbow. We talked through the symbolism of the rainbow and it’s significance at the moment.
3. Map Reading
Outdoor learning at it’s best! If you’re keen to learn to map read or need to refresh your skills now is a great time, using your local footpaths to practice. You can start by watching a quick YouTube video to cover the basics, then just grab yourself a map from Ordinance Survey Online or download their app and head out for your daily walk. I asked the children to plot a route on our local map, including a place to stop for a snack and something interesting to see along the way (they chose some natural springs). We then set off and the children map read the entire route. We also had a bash at using the compass to navigate with mixed success.
4. Butterfly Chasing
Back to classic Enid Blyton imagery… we’ve been using the Woodland Trust Butterfly Swatch book to identify butterflies. It means we’ll often be found darting across the garden or a nearby field in hot pursuit of a butterfly that needs to stop for long enough for us to identify it! As an outdoor classroom maths challenge, we’ve been making notes of which butterflies we see, when, where, and what the weather was like (generally sunny), so that we can create charts and graphs with the results.
5. Sunrise/sunset walk
Ok, I know I talk about sunset and sunrise walks a lot but I genuinely believe that it’s the most enjoyable way to start or finish the day, on your own or with the family. Take a snack, a beer, a bottle of wine (thinking more about sunset than sunrise but these days, who’s judging!?) and find a good local vantage point. It’s even better if the sunrise coincides with the Spring dawn chorus. Take a breath, forget about the world’s problems and watch the sun work it’s magic.
Check out our plan for a Sunrise Walk Mini Adventure here