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

The Right to Play – Are Scotland Doing Enough?

In 1989, the United Nations introduced the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991.

In the Convention on the Rights of the Child article 31 states that “States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” (Unicef, No Date Given, p.9). I am interested to investigate if Scotland are doing enough in the early stages of a child’s life to allow them to engage in play. I have recently been looking at Sweden’s education system for the early years and their outlook on childhood and play. I am going to compare the two systems to see if Scotland are doing enough to allow children to play.

The first crucial difference in the two educational systems is the school starting stage. In Scotland children start school between the ages of 4 and 5 where as in Sweden children do not start school until the age of 7. In Sweden, the children however do go to preschool from a very early age – this is heavily funded by the government to support parents who are working or in education themselves – it roughly costs around £7.50 per day including food per child. The children leave preschool with no knowledge or learning of reading and writing at the age of 7 however by the age of 10 there is no difference in the league tables for reading and writing in Sweden with any other country. Parents and the Government believe that children should have the chance to play and develop before they begin school which is why they go to preschool to develop their social skills.

On the other hand, in Scotland, from as early as possible children are sent to school to learn to read and write. The government suggest they do this to allow parents to go back to work/education as early as possible. However, this means that from an early age children are taking away from the right to play and are made to begin their learning through planned lessons where as in the early years in Sweden the children have no planned lessons giving them the freedom to play and explore, particularly in the outdoors – a huge part of the Swedish Education system is based upon their push for outdoor education and play. Comparing this to Sweden and the league table results suggests immediately we are not doing enough to encourage play in the early years of childhood which is a right of the child.

However, in the Early Learning and Childcare Entitlement produced by the Scottish Government (No Date Given, No Page) it states that the Scottish Government are continually trying to improve the standard of early learning as well as its flexibility and cost for all families. Since August 2014, children, aged between 3 and 4/5 years old (for the majority of children – there are cases where it is from the age of 2 years old), in Scotland are entitled to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare. This gives children the chance for meaningful play to encourage children socialising from a young age before going to school. However, in comparison to Sweden although they have to pay for their preschool, it is a small expense as it is heavily subsidised by their government, children can attend preschool to play for a much longer period from as early as a parent wants to the age of 7. This gives the child more opportunity and time for meaningful play before entering school than there is in Scotland.

There are opportunities for play in the Scottish Education System, enough to meet the right of the child in article 31. However, I personally feel that the Scottish Government could be doing more to encourage play particularly at a young age especially in comparison to the Swedish Education System.

 

References

Scottish Government (No Date Given) Early Learning and Childcare Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/parenting-early-learning/childcare (Accessed on 20/01/16)

Unicef (No Date Given) The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Available at: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_PRESS200910web.pdf (Accessed on 20/01/16)

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.