From Naughty Boy to ‘Outstanding’ Head Teacher; A Reflection on Educating Drew.

I put ‘Outstanding’ in quote marks as Harrop Fold, from the Povey’s book, has yet to be given Ofsted’s outstanding seal of approval. Nevertheless, I believe Povey to be an outstanding head teacher from what I have watched and read. He is committed to making ‘the’ difference to his school and it seems through this book and the Educating Greater Manchester series to be working.

I had fallen in love with the team and the teaching styles of Harrop Fold School in Little Hutton from the Educating Greater Manchester series and when I found out head teacher Drew Povey had written a book, it was the first thing on my Christmas list (alongside a guillotine paper cutter and a laminator – nothing screams soon to be Newly Qualified Teacher and broke student more). Fast forward to the day before my placement and I have finally finished reading the book. Personal commitments and university assignments overtook the importance of the book but nevertheless it was fantastic and I could not recommend it enough to anyone and when I got the chance, I simply could not put it down.

Drew Povey had inspired me from the minute I set eyes on Harrop Fold in Educating Greater Manchester but what was clear from the book is the are many of others who inspire him from his brothers and his teachers to people he quotes in his books such as Obama, Churchill, EM Kelly or Spiderman. There were many messages in the book anyone could relate to; business leaders, head teachers or school teachers. However, in this short post I wanted to pick out a few parts of the book I related to most and the messages that were prominent to me.

Anyone who knows me will know me as quite a sporty person growing up (ok that hasn’t stuck too much throughout university but I am known as the sporty one in my friend group) and the links Povey makes between education and school including a chapter on having a playbook as probably the message that rings through the whole book to me. Povey’s leadership style often comes back to what he had learnt from rugby training and coaching. He uses tactics from rugby to get the ‘difficult children’ on side, he set up a rugby team at Harrop Fold to give these something to commit to at school; having the ‘hard lads’ onside rippled through the school and there was a murmur that Mr Povey was a ’sound guy’. Povey noted the importance of keeping these students onside and committed to creating a no exclusion policy, he wanted to ensure no child was written off which was an incredibly warming feeling. The importance of understanding the student’s behaviour, the root problem and not just looking at the bad behaviour was something perhaps I overlooked the significance of before and I was quick when faced with challenging behaviour to look at this as a personal attack and deal with the behaviour and not seek out the issue behind it all. In all honestly, the last time I remember dealing with significantly challenging behaviour, which did not stem from an additional support need, was in first year of university and thus reflecting back I did not really know much at all at the time of the placement although it was a great learning curve.

Throughout university, any assignment has told me to reflect more which I have tried so hard over the last two years particularly to work on. I probably took it too far when I had five page weekly reflections on my third year placement and it is still a goal going into my final placement to work on. Throughout the last chapter of the book it was evident how reflective the whole book had been. The process Povey suggests at Harrop Fold is that the teachers take on a new challenge for a certain period of time, reflect and review. If the challenge is making a difference they continue to monitor but Povey makes clear not all of the challenges were worth the time and energy put that the school team put into them. The open and honest dialogue between the different teams in Povey’s four types of meetings are what I aspire to achieve to make sure I am not wasting time and energy on strategies that are not working but continuing to reflect and notice the positives in my practice as well.

Although this post only picked out two things, I wouldn’t want to give too much away about the book. However, this book made me think deeper about my practice; about different techniques and pedagogical strategies I perhaps never have come across otherwise. I am very intrigued for the second series of Educating Greater Manchester. I am ready to see if there is any more inspiration Povey and his team at Harrop Fold can continue to develop in me as a teacher and I am excited to see how the school is getting on. Mostly, I am excited to see how these inspirations can play out in my practice as an NQT. If you haven’t already, I would recommend any teacher to read Povey’s story.

Povey also talks about Harrop Fold’s no exclusion policy to the Education Select Committee in this short video; https://twitter.com/HarropFold/status/965159166997422080.

Reference:

Povey, D. (2017) Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Limited.

Exploring Edinburgh!

Whilst Steph and I had Stephanie’s friend from America, Apshara, over for the week. We thought we should take a trip to the capital to show her a little more of Scotland. Perfect time for another Social Studies blog!

All ready for our trip to the capital with our tartan and irn bru, stereotypical Scots!

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When we arrived in Edinburgh, we decided to go to Princes’ Street Gardens and the Wallace Monument. What I had never realised until we were looking for things to do to show Apshara was that you can go up the Wallace Monument. This is something I had walked past numerous times and never even considered. It is however, now that I know it is an option, is something I would be very interested to do at a later day because we did not have long in Edinburgh.

The Wallace Monument

At the gardens, there was a World War II Remembrance Day memorial surrounding the Wallace Monument. The memorial was hundreds of poppies on little plaques to represent the fallen who had served our country during World War II. This, in my opinion, felt like a representation of Flanders Field. Although I had never studied the poem Flanders Field in school, the memorial gave a very apparent representation of the image I had in my mind of Flanders Field. It was, personally, a very touching memorial.

The World War II Remembrance Day Memorial in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial did not immediately seem relevant to a blog post or my assignment but as I have sat down to write this post, the relevance to my assignment is indisputable. The critical viewpoint of history’s place in the Curriculum for Excellence in short can be argued in two lights. One by the postmodernist views which state that history and some sources validity must be questions as accounts are in their view simply stories and the relevance of those stories must therefore be questioned. On the other hand, the relevance of understanding our heritage, how society was formed and understanding key world events such as World War II is critical to children’s understanding of the world but must be taught with relevance to the world and their lives today for example through Interdisciplinary Learning topics which also focus on issues in current society. This has all come into my social studies assignment. I felt the memorial did a spectacular job of capturing the importance of World War II in today’s society and it really moved me personally.

Part of the memorial was the ‘Tree of Thanks’. The Tree was to allow for people to thank someone or the fallen for the things they do/have done for them. This, to me, allowed for a personal element to the memorial and there were a lot of beautiful messages to both people’s chosen person and the fallen. This allowed for time to think and reflect on what the fallen have done for our country and what other people do for you every day. My Tartan Heart (Tartan, anything piece of our Scottish heritage I did not immediately think so) was of course dedicated to my mum. My mum (and dad) have done so much for me especially over the last few years I have been at university and I always think it is important to thank them.

The memorial really got me thinking as I had never seen any World War II Remembrance Memorial like this before. Although it has not really helped me understand the significance of teaching World War II as a standalone topic still, it has helped me to acknowledge that this is still an important issue in contemporary society.

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As a newfound big fan of the Scottish Museum, I thought this would be the perfect place to show Apshara a little bit more of Scotland and our heritage as a country. However, as a we got there quite late and they were closing from the top down, we never got to go to the ‘A Changing Nation’ section which I felt from my last trip here was the most relevant section to our lives and had the most information that would be interesting to Apshara.

However, this meant we went to a section of the Museum that Katie and I did not get to explore. Although we were only there for an hour and on top of the last trip, still did not feel like long enough. We went into the technology section on the ground and fifth floor which was purely for enjoyment and it was great fun. Stephanie had said previously ‘I am not sure I am going to enjoy a museum’ as I hyped up the place. This was the three of them after a great hour of fun!

Three clearly amused adults!

Stephanie’s parting words ‘this was great fun, we have to come back when it is fully open!’.

The clear enjoyment.

This comment alone only strengthened my opinion that although the museum is a huge place and there is a lot to do which makes it important, for the trip as a learning experience, to have a set area or task to focus on to keep control of the class and the experience. It is also important to allow children a chance to enjoy other sections that may interest them. These experiences, I feel from personal experience as a child on school trips, are what made me remember the trips and therefore the learning that took place. The fun and enjoyment as crucial parts to learning inside and out with the classroom but of course for risk assessments and health and safety especially outside need to be controlled by the teachers.

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The trip to Edinburgh as a whole was unexpectedly really worthwhile. It was a great stimulus for some serious thought into issues which are relevant to my current learning regarding social studies and an opportunity to broaden my own opinions and knowledge.

The Panda Room

Today was the day when it was time for the twos.

My nursery experience today took me into “The Panda Room” and an afternoon painting and getting messy with the two year olds. There were a lot of difference between being with the two year olds and being in with the three to five year olds so I thought I would reflect on today with a blog.

The first thing I noticed before the children even arrived as how friendly with main practitioner with the two year olds was. This came with two lessons. Firstly, I noticed in myself how at ease I was immediately, Mrs Q*, was easily one of the friendly practitioners I have ever had the experience of working alongside so far. Mrs Q was very welcoming, talkative and wanted to know all about my experience of teaching and being at nursery. This made me realise how much easier having/being someone like Mrs Q can make these experience of coming into a unfamiliar environment, both a new place and a new teaching experience, for a student teacher. When the children came in, Mrs Q was exactly the type of practitioner the two year olds needed. She was calm, relaxed and spoke so slowly and well pronounced that it was an easy transition for the children coming away from their parents into the nursery.

The Panda room can have up to ten children in it but there were only three girls and one boy in today which meant there were three practitioners as well as myself in with the children which meant we had a one to one basis with the children. This meant that the atmosphere in the Panda Room compared to the 3-5’s room was automatically more relaxed. There were a few differences in the Panda Room, mainly the children did not come straight into group time for registration. This could be because there are less children and therefore there isn’t a need for the register but it allowed the children to come in and just get straight into playing with no formalities such as a set group activity like in the 3-5’s room and in a primary class room. This made me realise that the two year olds are just too young to be coming into nursery to partake in formalities such as these and they are at nursery purely for the play and social interaction with other children.

One of the critical things I noticed whilst in the Panda Room was that there were huge developmental differences in the two year olds to the 3-5 year olds that I have been working with normally at nursery. Normally with the 3-5 year olds – they are able to verbally communicate and many are using their words in full sentences. However, in the Panda Room, the two year olds have very limited words. The children have observation books where any progress in their language and communication is written down, for example one of the children was able to repeat ‘bananas’ and ‘apples’ whilst playing and this was noted in her observation book. This was one of the biggest difference in the two rooms and one of the hardest for myself to get my own head around. I noticed that I had totally changed when I was working with the two year olds for the first half an hour or so. I had realised that because the children weren’t communication through words then I also went a lot more quiet. As soon as I realised this in myself, I told myself to snap out of it. Just because the two year olds have limited words does not mean that I then as a twenty year old also go quiet. I knew that I should be doing the opposite and modelling words and expressions for the children to copy and learn, therefore this is what I tried to do for the rest of the afternoon.

Another key difference I picked up on in the two year olds were just how egocentric they were. Everything was about themselves; they were reluctant to share and play together. They also took a lot longer to process things. The children took a lot longer to come to terms with me being in the nursery. However, one of the children who initially would not even let me touch them or help her put on her coat and do up her shirt sleeve. By the end of day when her mum came to collect her, she ran up to me and gave me a cuddle goodbye which was an amazing feeling that the child had accepted me and her presence in the nursery.

*I have decided not to name anyone in these blogs as I have not asked for permission from the individuals to be included in my blog.

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

My Dad is on Facebook!

Strange educational blog post title – yes.

However, after 6 years of protesting how much he dislikes facebook, around a month ago my dad officially joined the digital space and made a facebook account. This shows me just how much we are moving towards a digital age and how much our lives revolve around the internet.

This combined with Derek’s lecture today made me think about how much I really know about the resources available online – which in fact is very little. I spend a good proportion of my day online for a variety of purposes and I am constantly connected with having multiple devices. For someone who spends a fair percentage of my day online, I felt that I should be aware of what children are using the internet for. Turns out, I don’t.

I have recently had a keen interest in outdoor education sparked and am beginning to look at this linked with the decline of playing outdoors in childhood with the link to the rise in technology. This had given me a rather fixed view on technology. Technology had been something I apportioned blame to for lack of play and creativity in young children recently. Turns out, I am wrong.

Although, there is a strong link with the decline in outdoor play due to technology. Technology is not entirely the bad guy. It can stimulate creativity and play. I have never heard of many of the resources Derek enlightened us to in his lecture today nor have I ever played Minecraft (sorry Derek). I have a youtube account but don’t exactly use it. It is clear, I am not a digital native. But, I am willing to learn. With my dad finally accepting that we are moving into a more digital world and joining facebook, I think it is time I look at digital learning space and resources available to children and teachers. It is time that I move into this digital age before I head into a class and become the teacher that does not know how to switch on the latest technology.

I hope by looking more into the resources available online that this will give me a more critical stance on outdoor education and technology. No one subject area works best for every child and I should know about a variety of different ways of learning rather than just the areas I am interested in. It maybe time to download Minecraft. Do you even get a Minecraft app? Well, I am about to find out. Wish me luck. Digital immigrant here I come. Like father like daughter. The 21st century is awaiting.

First day at Nursery!

On Wednesday, as my previous blog post stated, I was off for my first day of nursery for part of my Transition Project at university. The nerves this morning were there a little bit but not as much as the night before.

The minute I walked into the school, I was greeted by a lovely receptionist at the front desk for the school which automatically made me feel more relaxed.  When I arrived at the nursery, they weren’t exactly expecting me. Which seems to be the issue whenever I arrive at a school so thankfully that never made me nervous at school. I was introduced to the staff at the nursery which was a team of 16 ladies for a nursery which can have 60 3-5 year olds and 10 2 year olds in their panda room. Although, they currently aren’t working at full capacity.

Immediately, this amount of children and the size of the nursery was a big change from the nursery I went to which was about half the size in both respects. I had not yet seen the size of the nursery but I was imagining it to be quite big. Much to my surprise, it was about half the size I expected however it did have a big outdoor space to play. Outdoor play is something I am hugely passionate about due to the positive impacts it makes on childhood; the statistics on how well the Scandinavian countries, from whom outdoor play holds a substantial part of their pedagogy for early years’ education; and because many of the fond memories I have of my childhood are from playing outdoors with my parents.

The afternoon in a nursery was very similar to an episode of “The Secret Life of Four Year Olds” from channel 4. There was a lot going on for the children to choose from but apart from at the beginning and the end of the session there was no structure to the day; it was all free play. When the children first come in, they are spilt into six groups of ten (when the nursery is a full capacity) to have a chance to speak with one of the nursery teachers* and to do the register amongst other things.

The group I was placed with for the beginning was consolidating what they had learnt yesterday from their visit from “Farmer Jill”. Firstly, I thought the fact that they had left this consolidating until today instead of the group time at the end of yesterdays session was a fantastic idea. This meant that the children could go away yesterday and think about what they had learnt , giving them time to process all of the information they had learnt before they had to summarise their knowledge. This was very similar to what I can imagine a structured lesson with a small group of Primary 1 pupils could consist of. When we began the questions on consolidating their knowledge were very closed questions such as “can you remember who came to visit yesterday?” but this meant that all of the children knew the answer but the same children were always the ones who wanted to speak which quickly became chaotic was three or four children were shouting out different things. The children’s group leader* improvised and had the children pass round one of the spaces which meant that the children all had a chance to share what they could remember from yesterday and what they enjoyed most. This first half an hour of the afternoon session was very structure and the children were sitting for a long time before they got to play. However, I can see this as beneficial for the children for when they are moving into primary school and are expected to have structured lessons all day very soon.

The rest of the afternoon was free play for the children. One of the big things I noticed was the lack of interaction with technology. There were two computers and one smartboard that the children, as far as I am aware, can use. However, the children were much more interested in doing activities such as baking, making puzzles, arts and crafts but mainly they were interested in playing games outside including tig and tag and hide and seek. To see children enjoying playing outdoors in the current age when technology is an ever growing medium and outdoor play is steadily decreasing was very encouraging to see.

One of the big things I have observed with the teachers in the nursery today, is their range of tone of voice and their excitement when talking with the children. I was always aware that this would be something I would need to work on when going into an early years setting as my ability to change of my tone of voice with ease can be rather limited. To be able to observe how the nursery teachers do it and how the convey excitement when the children are excited about something is definitely something I am paying close attention to. It was also when the children were speaking over one another in group time, the teacher was never cross or shouted at them but the way she spoke when she asked them to allow someone else to have a turn meant the children understood what they were doing was not kind to the person whose turn it was to speak. I am hoping that through observing this practice over the next 8 weeks that to be able to pick up and replicate some of their skills to be able to improve my practice for my third year placement.

Overall, I had a fantastic first day at nursery: there were many great opportunities to observe, learn, build bonds with the children and most importantly, play. I am thoroughly looking forward to going back after the October break.

 

*As I have not yet had the chance to ask permission to name the teachers in my reflections, they will currently stay anonymous.

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.