Take a Wonder into the Woods

As the old favourite goes – if you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.

After missing my placement lifestyle of being so relaxed and enjoying nature, that and after reading ‘Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children’ (Wells and Evans, 2003) – I decided to drag my flat mate, Steph, on a stroll around the country park nearest our flat. What I anticipated to just be a wonder around a picturesque park was quite different. I did not realise all of the different activities the country parks had to offer for families/children.

The first weekend, we visited Crombie Country Park. Crombie Country Park had multiple different walking routes the longest walk being around the loch and only at a distance of 2 and 3/4 miles with another 3 slightly shorter routes as well. Before we went off on our walk, I was not aware of what Crombie had to offer, especially for children, even the spectacular scenic views surprised me. Amongst the beautiful scenery however there were a host of surprises to keep the children entertained. There were activities such as find the giants, an orienteering course with different levels and little woodland “animals” hidden around our walk.

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Find the Giants in the trees

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Part of the orienteering course for the children

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The hidden animals

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No excuse to not take the children here!

Crombie Country Park also had the facilities for tree top trails, a play park, a young naturalist programme on a Saturday and a picnic/bbq area. Amongst this, there ranger team are on hand for activities such as arts and crafts or guided walks as well as school trips from nursery through to secondary to assist teachers and lead outdoor activities in the park.

A week later, after still being in awe at Crombie, Steph and I headed out to Monikie Country Park just across from Crombie. Whilst Monikie has less trails to offer that we could find, they were currently hosting the Dragon Matrix, which I am devastated I never managed to go to, which took up a lot of the park forrest areas. However, Monikie had a beautiful walk around the lake, a play park for children, a huge green space and lots of picnic tables where a few families were enjoying a picnic. Even with all of these facilities and resources, there were only two or three families at Monikie as well.

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The Dragon Matrix – cross curricular learning – outdoor education, art and technology!

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Perfect for the family – a beautiful walk and a great play park.

However, even with all of these different activities and play parks for the children, both Monikie and Crombie Country Parks were surprisingly quiet. There were only one or maybe two families that Steph and I noticed in either of the two parks. Considering the fact we went on a weekend, during the afternoon, once I realised all of the activities and the park, I did expect there to be more families at the parks. As after Steph and I had discussed, this is what my of our parents would have taken us to do on a weekend when we were younger. This made me really reflect on my recent reading about outdoor education particularly this quote below from Adam (2013, p.524).

“Accompanying the obesity concerns are fears for children’s safety which are leading to increased indoor activities (Jenkinson 2001; Palmer 2006; Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008). This trend towards children being ushered indoors has occurred despite the fact that statistics about risk outside the home are relatively small compared to parental fears (Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008; Layard and Dunn 2009).”

This shows thimg_2558at due to parents fears in this contemporary society and the desire to keep their children safe, they’re wrapping their children up in cotton wool and not allowing/taking them outside to experience these amazing resources and opportunities that the Country Parks offer.

Steph and I are determined to make these walks a weekly event with Forfar Loch Country Park next on our list. I would definitely recommend taking a break from all of the assignment or work and getting yourself to one of the country park to see all of the fantastic natural resources and activities they can offer for yourself or for your class. Why be stressed when you can go play outside and call it educational?

 

References 

Adam, K. (2013) ‘Childhood in Crisis? Perceptions of 7-11 year olds on being a child and the implications for education’s well-being agenda’ in Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 41(3) pp.523-537 London: Routledge

Outdoor play in Early Years

For my second week back at nursery, I was asked to spend my afternoon outdoors. This request was met by my delight at the chance to have a look into some more learning in the outdoor particularly as this is an age that I have had no experience working outdoors with.

In the nursery there are no set lessons or plans for the children and they are free to play how they want, it was a chance to see what the children would do with their outdoor free play opportunities. Due to the fact that parents in this contemporary society are trying to protect their children as best as possible, this unfortunately means that children are not getting the opportunities to “exercise their bodies or to encounter the excitement and challenges of the outdoors. As a consequence an increasing number of children have weight problems. Current figures suggest that 22.9 per cent of four- and five-year-olds are either overweight or obese” (Dowling, 2010, p.172-3).

Whilst I was outside with the other practitioner, Mrs H, we got chatting about the limitations of outdoor play in the primary setting. Mrs H and myself discussed the fact that the children whilst in nursery had the choice to play outdoors in all weather conditions and the nursery practitioners had no choice but to be outdoors as well in all conditions. The only thing the children were told on this particular day was that they had to have a jacket on to play outside. However, on the other side of a fence, life for the children in the primary school was much different. Children were running round in the cold without jackets on but the minute the slightest bit of rain came on, the children were ushered indoors for the last ten minutes of lunch break. This is very common primary schools. It is almost as if teachers are worried of children getting cold whereas from what I can remember as a child as well as from the experience I had today, children tend to want to be outside regardless of the weather conditions. It was really important for me to see the difference between the nurseries practice and the primary stage practice.

This made me reflect on the idea of learning in the outdoors and the fact that the majority of teachers, regardless of this being a vital part of the CfE, only viewing outdoor education as a one of lesson when the weather is nice.  However, as the nursery children proved to me – they do not care what the weather is like, as long as they are having fun, enjoying themselves and getting to play, they are more than happy to be outdoors in the rain. Robertson (2014) stated weather as one of the common reasons that teachers worry about before they start outdoor learning. This should not be a worry for teachers as on my Learning from Life placement with Adventure Aberdeen there was not a single session we considered cancelling due to the weather – the students were just equipped by the centre with appropriate clothing for the activity and weather. Therefore, when teachers are planning for an outdoor education lesson, they should advise parents in advance that the class will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland. Teachers also need a degree of flexibility when planning for learning outdoors as Robertson (2014) suggests as the weather may not allow for one activity but this does not mean the lesson should be cancelled but simply adapted to fit with the weather

With weather, I have experienced both extremes whilst at camp and whilst on placement. As already stated on placement, the children were out in all weather conditions from sunny days in the sea to snow sand sledging. However, at camp, the as soon as it rained – in a little bit – the children’s activities were changed from normal schedule to rainy day schedule. This meant that the children were kept indoors even when it was just drizzling. You could tell from the children that this was frustrating for them as they looked forward to the activities they had selected and these were often cancelled, normally these days were back to back. In my views, if Scandinavians countries can have children out in all weathers and this clearly has an impact on their children’s wellbeing and education then we should follow the lead of Adventure Aberdeen and the Scandinavian countries and try to get our children out in all weather conditions.  In contrast to the nursery and the primary setting this is two extremes on the scale although it rather remarkably shows the same point – a little bit of rain can totally hinder the joy the children are having outdoors.

Children, in my view, should, like in the nursery, have the opportunity to have their voice heard and make decisions for themselves as to whether or not during their free play time they would like to stay outdoors in any weather, as long as they have appropriate clothing for the weather on, or if they would prefer to go inside. I understand that this is not always possible as the children need to be supervised and this would be stretching the playground assistance, there could possibly be solutions, for example the children who want to play indoors go to the games hall instead of their classrooms.

Reference

Dowling, M (2010) Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development 3rd Edn. London: Sage Publications

Robertson, J. (2014) Dirty Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Outdoors Wales: Independent Thinking Press

The Issues with the Outdoors

Reflect on what you have read. What challenges may there be when beginning outdoor learning with a class? How would you plan and prepare for this?

Evidence – Write a reflection on the positive aspects and challenges of outdoor learning. Plan an outdoor learning lesson with a focus on Health & Wellbeing. Where will you go? What experiences/activities will you organise to ensure the Health and Wellbeing outcomes are met?

Taking a class outdoors for learning as I realised on my Learning from Placement there can be numerous risks. There were lengthy risk assessment documents for every potential risk that could happen on every activity they provided. However, whilst on placement, not once did we have any incidents during the 6 week period I was there.  This is due to the fact that the correct measures were in place because of the risk assessments.

In the beginning stages of taking a class outdoors and away from the school grounds, my biggest fear is losing a child. I am aware that if I build relationships with all my pupils and have the ability to trust them, then this should not be an issue. Setting the correct boundaries with the children and not allowing them totally freedom at first to make sure they are all able to come back when asked or stop where told to do means that I will still have control over the situation whilst allowing the children to have that freedom outdoors.

I believe thoroughly in the power of play and the effects being outdoors can have on children, especially since being on my placement in second year. I think that the outdoors generally has the ability to give children the sense of responsibility, freedom, independence, challenges, builds resilience and defines personalities. It has a huge impact on health and wellbeing in children as Stirling council, in particularly St. Ninians Primary, has proved with their daily mile challenge. Getting their children outdoors every day for their day mile has reduced obesity levels to the point where no child in St. Ninians is obese.

Although teaching outdoors come with its own set of risks. These cannot stop children from going outdoors. In a time when playing outside is quickly deteriorating due to fears of risks and of people: in my opinion, teachers and schools are in a position to educate. They should be taking children outdoors for their health and wellbeing and to educate children as well as parents on safe places to be outdoors and what the children can learn from being outdoors. When I take my class outdoors, I feel I have a basic knowledge already on places in Aberdeen that I could go or organisations that I could contact for resources or help. However, there will still be risks – which will always be there but through risk assessment and risk management, working with my children to build responsible citizens then these can be a part of learning.

When I was reading through chapter 11 of Dirty Teacher, there were issues such as weather, poisonous plants and wasps which are all valid issues but issues that can be overcome none the less. When I was working with Adventure Aberdeen, we never cancelled a session due to the weather – even in the snow in May. When I plan on doing an outdoor session with my class I will be advising parents in advance that we will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland – hopefully if its summer to send them with both a rain jacket and sunscreen but if we are in winter to make sure they will be well wrapped up. At Adventure Aberdeen, there were multiple times we were supposed to do activities that were water based activities but due to the weather these plans had to change, much to the disappointment of some children. However, the session was never completely cancelled – as Juliet suggested in chapter 11 – we changed the session to fit with the weather and it changed to a session where the children would always be active, such as cycling.

With weather, I have experienced both extremes whilst at camp and whilst on placement. As already stated on placement, the children were out in all weather conditions from sunny days in the sea to snow sand sledging. However, at camp, the as soon as it rained – in a little bit – the children’s activities were changed from normal schedule to rainy day schedule. This meant that the children were kept indoors even when it was just drizzling. You could tell from the children that this was frustrating for them as they looked forward to the activities they had selected and these were often cancelled, normally these days were back to back. In my views, if Scandinavians countries can have children out in all weathers and this clearly has an impact on their children’s wellbeing and education then we should follow the lead of Adventure Aberdeen and the Scandinavian countries and try to get our children out in all weather conditions.

Another issues that Juliet raised was poison plants. Poison plants or endangered plants were constantly surrounding children when I was out on placement. However, in the woods, if any plants were endangered or poisonous, the had a red stick next to them. This drew attention to them which could have made children go over and touch them but instead the inquisitive children wanted to know why there was a red stick in the forest and what it meant. This is an idea that can be taken into the local area or the playground to bring attention to the plants but can also be explained before to the children before we leave the classroom that if they see the red stick then it means not to touch the plant because it can be dangerous.

A final idea that Juliet suggested was to do with the animals we find out in nature such as wasps and spiders. Juliet’s idea of a wasp drill I think is a brilliant idea as children can tend to panic when a wasp comes near them. This idea can mean that it would significantly reduce the risk of children being hurt by a wasp. This would also lead into different lessons such as instruction written on helping other children to minimise their risk of being hurt and they find a wasp, which is already died, to investigate wasps further. The idea of creating a spider web with wool was something I thought was a way to explore spiders and it could be a topic of discussion for why spiders make webs. However, if I was doing this with children and we were looking at the outdoors, I would take them outdoors for this. I would have my class outdoors with ropes getting them to create a web using the ropes and the trees in a forest, making sure the web was tight and had little holes. I would then get the groups to discuss why they thought the spiders web needed to be tight and compact. This means that we can use the outdoors for learning interdisciplinary: taking art through the creating the web; using the web we have created to learn and discuss spiders; then use the outdoors to try and find some spider as well as discussing if we should or shouldn’t touch them; but also discussing what other animals we can find in the forest.

My Adventures Are Finished…

End of Placement Reflection

I can’t honestly believe I have finished my placement. I am thoroughly gutted my time at Adventure Aberdeen has come to an end. This placement has been a huge eye opener for myself.

Although over the past six weeks have been full on and there have been tears sometimes from the amount of energy I have used and the lack of sleep I have had, I would not swap this experience: this placement has definitely changed me personally and professionally for the better.blog5

Personally and professionally, this placement has definitely given me a wider view on outdoor education. With outdoor education growing into a much bigger part of teaching through the Curriculum for Excellence as well as it being something you need to be able to do to remain register on the General Teaching Council Scotland, I am glad I have had this opportunity to experience outdoor education. I have been able to go on amazing outdoor education sessions which I can definitely take into my own pedagogy including bikeability, scavenger hunts, wilderness skills, mountain biking (Go MTB scheme) to name a few. I have also been given the opportunity to challenge myself, try new things and overcome fears which I could easily be asked to do with a child/group as a teacher such as coasteering, surfing, canoeing, gorge walking, rock climbing and abseiling. All of these activities I couldn’t do without a qualified tutor but is now something I would definitely not say no to doing.

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Professionally, I used to think that outdoor education in the rain was not a good idea especially with small children. I compared it with Sweden and did wonder how they managed in. Now after placement, outdoor education is a year round option in my opinion. Yes it can be cold but it snowed every day for my fifth week at Adventure Aberdeen and we never cancelled any of the sessions. Yes there were changes to the plan but we were still taking children outdoors. However, I now know that you just have to be prepared and not be afraid to change the lesson then we can always take education outdoors.

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Flexibility around sessions/lessons is a huge thing I have taken away. In first year, I tried to stick to my lesson plan to the word most of the time. However, around 95 percent of the time with Adventure Aberdeen some part of the plan changed. However, there wasn’t a bad session I was out on but if the tutors were not flexible there would have been which is a key lesson I will take away.

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(It might have been snowing but we were still outdoors and smiling!)

 

 

I have read and realised through hands on experience just how much children get from outdoor education. You may be teaching about one thing but the outdoor is so free that there are a number of different things a child can and will take away from the session and the tutors do not always realise how much depth and breadth a child can take from their sessions educationally and personally.IMG_0410 (2)

The biggest thing I have taken away, personally and professionally, from my placement is the thoughts I have been having around my future career. Although I know I want to work with children to make a difference for children. I am not so sure I know if I want that to be in a classroom. I am not naïve, I know this isn’t always a hands on, adventurous job: it has its own challenges and its own stresses. However, I also know that I have had a phenomenal time this last six weeks and I did not want to leave. I am now looking into doing a postgraduate degree in outdoor education after I finish my degree and do my probationary year, whilst also gaining some outdoor education qualifications in the meantime. I am not saying I would never teach, I do thoroughly also enjoy teaching in a classroom but this maybe something I still decide to do. But right now, teaching is looking like something I would come back to later after I have the chance to experience some more outdoor education. I now personally and professionally thoroughly have a massive love for outdoor education and the outdoors.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this placement and I am very grateful for all of the opportunities I have had through the learning for life module and Adventure Aberdeen. These six weeks have been phenomenal and I have done things I will never forget.blog

First Week Reflections

This first week has been so full on. I don’t think I have ever had so much hands on experience. I have learnt masses of knowledge and ideas that I can take into my practice.

Before I started placement, I had thought I would only need to do a write up once a week. However, due to how much I have learnt this week, I have had to do a daily write up on what I am learning.

In the first week, I have felt like I am already a part of the team at Adventure Aberdeen and I feel like I have been accepted into a massive family. I was very nervous on the Sunday night beforehand. This week, I have learnt just how relaxed the organisation is, compared to a staff room, there is no cliché or groups – everyone is very welcoming and friendly to everyone. There is a good sense of humour within the organisation and I am very much enjoying being a part of this team.

This week, I learnt that the main portion of the organisation work is based on inclusion work. Due to the fact, the children the organisation work with can present very challenging behaviour and the tutors are not trained educators, they have not spent time reading up on behaviour management the same way we do for our degree but what they do have is experience and the way they handle the challenging behaviour is a massive aspect of what I have learnt this week. There are many different ways that they have handle some challenging behaviour that work very effectively these are a key point from this week that I will remember for my future practice in classrooms.

Throughout the week, I have had the chance to do a variety of different activities including: abseiling, mounting biking, a nightline trail and hill walking with a scavenger hunt. All of these activities have each given me so much knowledge about different things I could use for teaching in my future to include outdoor education in my practice. Although the tutors do not have lesson plans, I have been looking at these activities and linking them to the Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes when possible through the week.  Even though, I am also spending a lot of time preparing kit, putting kit away and in the store – I feel this is like the equivalent to lesson planning when it comes to teaching in a classroom. I forget how much work I did for teaching a lesson before and after the lesson, planning and reflecting on first year placement. I am extremely grateful for the experience I am having so far and I am looking forward to continuing this next week.

Next week, I am going to Cromdale to experience what it is like doing a residential trip which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

What is Cromdale?

During the 21st to the 24th of March, I am going to be going to Cromdale as part of my placement with Adventure Aberdeen. Therefore I thought I should do a post all about the wonder of Cromdale, one before and one after going there.

“Cromdale Outdoor Centre is Adventure Aberdeen’s residential base on Speyside. Converted from a Victorian village school and schoolhouse it is located in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. It is ideally located within easy reach of some of the most spectacular water and land based activity sites in Scotland. The base is perfect for all groups involved in outdoor activities or courses.

Cromdale is situated right in the heart of the Cairngorms, here you can experience the natural beauty of Speyside. From the outstanding waters and unusual wildlife to the towering mountains, this area is known for its breath-taking scenery. Step outside and be greeted by Scotland at its very best. Cromdale Centre is ideally based for a variety of outdoor activities and visits. Venues easily accessible from the centre include:

  • The River Spey (300m from the centre) – access and egress for kayaks, canoes and white water rafts
  • The Speyside Way (200m from the centre) – gentle and scenic walking and biking on waymarked trails.
  • The Cromdale Hills (500m from centre) – excellent and extensive hill walking country with superb views of the Cairngorms and Speyside.
  • Huntly’s Cave (7 miles) – superb rock climbing and abseiling venue.
  • Bridge of Brown Gorge (10 miles) – one of Scotland’s premier gorge walking locations.
  • The Lecht (21 miles) and Cairngorm Mountain (27 miles) – for fantastic ski-ing, downhill mountain biking and hill walking activities with ski-lift and funicular railway access.
  • A multitude of venues for glen or hill walks – Adventure Aberdeen can provide guides and/or instruction.
  • Official Forestry Commission Mountain Biking centres at Moray Monster Trails (20 miles) or Laggan Wolftrax (45 miles).
  • Extensive off-road cycling within the Spey and Cairngorms areas – Adventure Aberdeen can provide guides and/or instruction.
  • Aviemore and Carrbridge areas have many visitor attractions. The Aviemore tourist office or website can provide more details” (Adventure Aberdeen, no date, no page).

My reading has shown the importance for residential outdoor education as well as the importance of a residential trip in the Curriculum for Excellence so I am looking forward to heading to Cromdale to experience this for myself as part of the tutor team.

 

Reference

Adventure Aberdeen (no date) Residential Packages Available at: http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/AdventureAberdeen/Outdooreducation/adventure_residential_packages.asp (Accessed on 17/03/16)

What is Adventure Aberdeen?

For my learning from life placement I have chosen to go to Adventure Aberdeen. Throughout this placement, we are given the freedom to record our experiences in any form. I have chosen to blog about my time at Adventure Aberdeen so I can include photographs, videos or links to anything I am doing on placement.

Therefore, before I start to blog about my placement I thought I would explain a little bit about Adventure Aberdeen. aa-logo

Adventure Aberdeen is a not for profit organisation within Aberdeen City Council which works with children ranging from preschool to secondary school for Outdoor Education. Although the organisation is not just for schools and they do packages for everyone – I will mainly be working with children of school age so I am going to focus mainly on what they do with children at school.

Adventure Aberdeen’s mission statement is “We strive to: ‘Inspire Learning through Adventure’.” They do this mainly through Outdoor Education which a huge part of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. Adventure Aberdeen state “by immersing individuals (sometimes physically!) into a new natural environment, all the body’s physical senses, emotions and key social skills are used to rationalise the situation and learn.” This is a chance for children to develop their practical intelligence from Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence (1997).

One of Adventure Aberdeen’s main site for providing learning in the outdoors is at Cromdale Outdoor Centre, their residential base, which is located in Speyside at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Adventure Aberdeen can adapted their residential programme to suit every group. After my discussion with the staff at Adventure Aberdeen, I am hopeful that I may get to spend a week at Cromdale Outdoor Centre and work with a residential group.

Adventure Aberdeen have different programmes from preschool, primary and secondary children with different learning opportunities to help meet the Outdoor Learning experiences and outcomes in Curriculum for Excellence which I hope to be able to be apart of throughout this placement.

This has just been a brief post to give some more information about Adventure Aberdeen, who they are and what they do. There is more information on everything they do on their website, which you can access here.

History and Literacy Outdoors!

Outdoor Education – two words that make any lecture automatically more interesting to me.

For Will’s input when he said we were actually going outdoors today I was as excited as any primary school child! As soon as we were allowed outside, off we went skipping away like little primary two’s.

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We literally went off skipping in excitement…

 

 

 

 

As we only had twenty minutes before we had to be back into the input, we cou10ldn’t go particularly far or find particularly much. However, what I did find that we could discuss was road safety, road signs and markings such as yellow lines – discussing with the children what they thought they meant. I also thought of reading things like bus time tables as this is a skill that is probably going to be relevant to their lives and is also something no one ever taught me to do.

 

However, after the input I went off for a wonder by myself down to the riverside. I already knew about the poem stanza down at the riverside and this was originally my first thought when Will told us to find something to do with literacy in the outdoors.

I was thinking of this as an upper years outdoor education lesson for history and literacy which could meet all four of these curriculum areas (Scottish Government, 2009):

Literacy (Reading): I can make notes, organise them under suitable headings and use them to understand information, develop my thinking, explore problems and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate. LIT 2-15a (p.31)

Literacy (Writing): By considering the type of text I am creating, I can select ideas and relevant information, organise these in an appropriate way for my purpose and use suitable vocabulary for my audience. LIT 2-26a (p.36)

Health and Wellbeing: I am experiencing enjoyment and achievement on a daily basis by taking part in different kinds of energetic physical activities of my choosing, including sport and opportunities for outdoor learning, available at my place of learning and in the wider community. HWB 2-25a (p.86)

Social Studies (History): I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish so1ciety. SOC 2-03a (p.283)

My lesson idea was to take the children down to the riverside with a notebook, first allow them to take some time to write down some words to describe what they seen, smelt, felt etc. I would give them some time to have a read of the tourist signs to see what information they would take about the Tay Bridge. I would allow some time for the children to discuss why they think we need the Tay Bridge.

Some pictures of the information signs for the Tay Bridge

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My final part of the lesson would be for them to read the poem “The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay” by William McGonagall (no date) which reads (a small extract from the section of the poem at the riverside):

“Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!

I hope that God will protect all passengers

By night and by day

And that no accident will befall them while crossing

The Bridge of the Silvery Tay

For that would be most awful to be seen

Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green”

 

I would allow them to take notes from the poem stanza and give them time to discuss the poem. After going back to the classroom, I would have a copy of the poem for the children to read the full version if they wish.

Some pictures of the poem engraved at the River Tay.

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When we got back to the class I would take some time for a whole class discussion on what they are learnt from the trip: from what they could initially see, smell, feel; to the history of the Tay Bridge; to McGonagall’s poem.

Whilst we were out, I would take pictures of the experiences, videos of the children and what they are thinking. Then when I would get them to reflect on what they have learnt in any way they wish the write it for example in a poem, diary entry, a creative story.

If I was carrying this on for a topic of the history of Dundee, when we were on our outdoor trip, I would perhaps ask the children to take a carrier bag with them and collect things to make a picture of the Tay Bridge for cross-curricular links with art.

As the Magdalen Green is continual mentioned throughout the poem – I would take the children out to the Magdalen Green for them to explore this as it is also a crucial part of Dundonian history. Allow them to go round collecting facts, items etc. for another outdoor lesson on the history of Dundee.

When we were finished the topic on the Tay Road Bridge: I would take the children down with chalk, allow them to add to the information (that they are learnt over the topic) provided at the Riverside on the ground. Documenting this with photographs and videos for the children assessment. I would also allow them to do this down at pavement at Magdalen Green with the facts and information they have learnt about Magdalen and its link to the history of Dundee. They could use the photographs in a portfolio for their assessment.

I feel this overall would be a lot more engage and active learning for the children instead of sitting at a desk with textbooks learning about the history of Dundee. These activities also have a lot more cross-curricular links than sitting reading facts out of a textbook about history.

 

 

References:

McGonagall, W. (No Date) McGonagall Online: The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay Available at: http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-railway-bridge-of-the-silvery-tay (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for Excellence Edinburgh: Scottish Government Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/all_experiences_outcomes_tcm4-539562.pdf (Accessed: 02/12/15)

Maths in the Outdoor!

I have chosen to blog about maths in the outdoors not only for the relevance to the module, Discovering Mathematics, but also for the relevance for my second year placement where I will be doing Outdoor Education.

Before coming to university, I would never have considered myself an outdoorsy person. I did not grow up in the type of family that went camping or went hill walking at the weekend. However, I have realised my keen interest in learning from the outdoors. I thoroughly enjoyed Brenda’s input on the Swedish curriculum and how they focus mainly on learning and playing outdoors. I am always particularly excitable when there is anything to do with health and wellbeing or outdoor education on our timetable – my friends sometimes think I am mad wanting to be outside in the freezing cold weather that we are having right now but personally I could not wait for Will’s outdoor education lecture!

I have realised I have learnt best when I am actively involved in a task and not just remember facts to reproduce my knowledge in an exam and this is something I have taken away from this lecture before I even think about writing what we actual participated in for the lecture. I believe I am not alone in this feeling and that children need to be actively involved in their learning to even remember a lesson let alone what was taught. Outdoor education has the potential to inspire and involve children in an active learning task.

Anyway I have already gone off on a tangent. The Maths and Outdoor Education input.

From what I have already learnt from this module – maths is literally hidden all around us, including outside. Now, you are probably thinking yes I know that if you cut a tree in half and you can tell how old it is from the rings on the stub.  However, there is so much more mathematical possibilities outside. I would never had thought the way a wave spirals as it comes into shore would involve mathematics. Yet, as I have already explained this concept in a previous post, “Creative Maths”, the spiral of a wave meets the golden ratio which links with Fibonacci’s sequence. Maths when you are stood outside it literally all around you – there has been mathematics concepts used for designing and creating any building you can see.

In this particular lecture, we looked at navigation in the outdoors. Something through doing my Duke of Edinburgh I thought I knew relatively a lot about – except I didn’t. I knew the basics and that was all.  For the reason that learning navigation is something we rarely do these days – we have GPRS on our phones, Sat Nav’s in our cars. Is there really a need for it any more with the technology we have? Simple answer yes. Although there is a great level of convenience with having a technology item tell us straight away where we are going and how long it will take to get there. There is the slight issue that all of the technology we have relies on the device having power. Our phones rely on having internet connect. What happens if we don’t have this? What I realised in this lecture is there are very limited people that have looked at a map recently or even know how to read a map.

I had never thought that I would have considered map reading to be fun. Once we had gone over the basics and everyone understood how to read a map. Will made it into a game – who could get to the next place the fastest. He would be given a set of the 6 point grid references (point A) for the starting position and a second set of 6 point grid references (point B) for where we were going – we had to find out the degree we were “walking” in on the map from point. We had to find who could find the degree the quickest – now we are a group of university students who got very into this and very competitive, very quickly. We all wanted to win.

No one was particular paying much attention to the fact we were having such fun reading a map. It could have kept us entertained for ages. Now with a group of primary fives – potentially it may need to be simplified a bit but I cannot see any reason why they wouldn’t act the same way. It gives them a chance to learn to read maps and actually enjoy it.

I feel this is something I could easily use in my future practice. I could easily take a group of children who have learnt to read maps and allow them to use estimation (another fundamental mathematical principle) to work out how long it would take us to walk from point A to point B using this chart below and compare it to reality of how long it did take us to walk and if we managed to do it in the correct direction the compass told us when we looked at it on the map.

Maths Outdoor I feel this is a beneficial and relatively easy way to get children engaged, outdoor, actively learning about map reading skills and take it away from constantly looking at a screen for directions and relying on a piece of technology to get us where we need to be.

I am thoroughly looking forward to getting outdoors in my future practice but in the near future for my learning from life placement – I hope to have the opportunity to either put these skills I have learnt into practice or learn even more about it and how it can influence my future practice.

The “Running Revolution” in Stirling.

For this blog post, I am going to look at Outdoor Education in particular comparing Sweden and the UK (in particular St Ninians, Stirling).

After our lecture inputs Brenda, I found myself in awe at Sweden and their approach to learning. I am very keen to learn more about outdoor education and this is what I intend to do with my learning from life placement this year hopefully as well as just getting a part time job with links to outdoor learning.

I found myself eager to complete the TDT tasks for the comparative education with Sweden yesterday and realised how far behind the UK actually are in terms of outdoor education. I remember being in primary seven and the class asking to go and learn outside about a topic and being told we couldn’t as it hadn’t been risk assessed. However, Sweden on the other hand, totally trust their system, pupils and most importantly the teachers to not do anything that would cause huge amounts of risk.

Today however, I just read an article (The Running Revolution) about a school in Stirling, Scotland which prompted this blog post. St Ninians School have recently made the news around Scotland for the fact they now have no children with childhood obesity and they have also managed to increase concentration in class. Their secret. The great outdoors. As cringey as that sounds – it works in Sweden and it is clearly working in Stirling. In Sweden, the teachers state that getting outdoors for at least half of the school day in preschool Runningbuilds good health in children. Whilst at St Ninians this has proved that even getting outdoor for a small part of the day has improved the health of children by reducing the amount of children with childhood obesity to zero. St Ninians have spent the last three years having a daily mile – this is where they get their children outside to walk or run a mile every day. The teachers choose when in the day they do it, whenever fits best with their timetable for the day.  The only thing that stops the classes doing their daily mile is heavy rain or ice.

The teachers and the children both clearly benefit from this scheme – the teachers have commented on how much the children enjoy going out for the daily mile or it would not be maintainable with their enjoyment. The teachers and children both benefit from the increased focus and concentration in the classroom as well. Therefore it shows that taking 15 minutes away from teaching time can clearly impact positively on the learning time in the class. In Sweden, the teachers cannot believe that the children especially in early years education are not getting outdoors to play and enjoy childhood. St Ninians, Stirling clearly are edging towards this aspect of outdoor education and enjoyment with the children at their school with even just a very small proportion of the day.

In my opinion, I believe that this shows that outdoor education clearly positively impacts on the learning, health and concentration of children at school. Both Sweden and Stirling have been able to prove this statement. Sweden tops European League tables in literacy by the age of 10 and Stirling have been able to banish childhood obesity from their schools. Other schools in the UK are beginning to take notice to Outdoor Learning, more now due to the success at St Ninians which is a positive but slow start compared to Sweden.

I have left a link to the Guardian newspaper in a hyperlink above in case anyone wishes to find up a little bit more about St Ninians and their daily mile.