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Learning outside – what can we learn from leaders in education?

Learning beyond the classroom can be advantageous when educating our children, with notable benefits such as:

  1. Providing children with the space to move freely (Rivkin, 1995)
  2. Nurturing creativity and imagination (Creative Education, 2017)
  3. Learning is made relevant to children (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010)
  4. Keeping children active and healthy
  5. Fostering positive environmental attitudes and engagement with nature.

So when we are presented with the beautiful sunshine, why don’t we make the most of the opportunity?  To prepare you for these scarce opportunities where dark clouds dissipate to reveal a beautiful blue sky, we’ve taken a look at how the leaders in education deliver outdoor learning in their schools. By incorporating outdoor learning in our practice all year round we sure will be prepared for making the most out of the summer term.

“Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development”  Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, DFES Publications, 2006

As we all know, Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden are leaders in education with some of the best schooling systems in the world. So, what are their best practices in the field of outdoor learning?

Udeskole is a Scandinavian concept meaning: education outside the classroom in a Scandinavian context. An increasing number of Scandinavian countries have introduced school-based outdoor learning for children (Bentsen, 2012). In the UK, the responsibility to teach outdoors is often given to external specialists whereas in Denmark, for example, no extra qualifications are needed to practice Udeskole. Teachers are given the autonomy to teach each of their subjects in the way they think will be best for their class by bringing their own passions and creativity into their teaching, keeping teachers feeling confident in their professional abilities (Howard, 2015).

How does outdoor learning combine or integrate with classroom learning?

In-Out-In approach: Lessons start in the classroom in a very similar way to lessons here in the UK. The teacher introduces the lesson and its objectives, assesses background knowledge and understanding of children and does a little pre-teaching. Children then move outside to begin the practical element of the lesson where they are given increased levels of responsibility for their own learning. Children are then taken back to the classroom for the plenary to consolidate learning (Howard, 2015).

There are many best practices for Udeskole. Here are the 9 criteria from a scheme that has been developed and used in schools, called Skoven i Skolen:

  1. The teaching goal must be visible in the planning and preparation.
  2. Children must work with the same subject areas outside the classroom as they do inside, so the teaching gives a whole learning experience.
  3. Children must work together.
  4. Teaching can be assignment orientated whilst using relevant teaching methods to meet learning goals.
  5. In order to solve practical tasks, children must bring their professionalism into play.
  6. Learning must always take place outside, rather than inside or in a gym.
  7. Lessons should involve sensory experiences.
  8. Lessons must be evaluated and reflected on with the children. This is important in order for children to learn and reflect on their outdoor experiences for future lessons as well as their teachers.
  9. Teachers must give children room for working and learning independently – the teacher must be able to sit on his or her hands! This gives teachers the opportunity to grasp the inherent learning potential of the situation without overtaking the aim of the lesson.
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