Thursday, June 21, 2018

Outdoor Education

There are many benefits to learning outdoors, however after a number of outdoor education events in the past month, I have many questions about the best ways to focus this learning, questions I will read about and work on with my colleagues as we embark on a year-long environmental education collaboration with Drumlin Farm.

These are some of the questions, I'll be thinking about.

  • Safety and Supervision: How do we best prepare students for outdoor education? Most children naturally like to be outdoors and they like to explore, but sometimes students' self regulation outdoors can be challenged which means we have to be extra careful about teaching street safety, water safety, and safety with respect to poison ivy, ticks, too much sun, and more depending on the environment. 
  • Developmental Appropriateness: What nature study and activities are best for children at particular ages? Should there be a K-12 environmental education thread that gives children a chance to develop these skills over time? 
  • Assessment: Should we informally assess students' outdoor education attitudes and skills at the start of the year in order to best plan for teaching and learning outdoors?
  • Standards: Rather than relying on worksheets and indoor environmental education, should we try to embed science standards into real-world outdoor education as much as possible?
  • Outdoor Play: Should we make the forests and other outdoor natural spaces be part of our outdoor play space. How could we do that safely? What would that mean for schoolyard landscaping?
Our outdoor education activities were ambitious. Some students were able to complete all the tasks set, but others were too excited and eager to explore without any formal teaching/learning efforts. I know that this free play is essential to student learning, however we also want to make sure that we are introducing and exploring important concepts too. There is a good, developmental balance to be had at every level. 

I'm happy that we'll be working with Drumlin Farm to answer the questions above and learn more about how we might continue to build our skills in this regard.