New corona virus occurred over the night and completely changed our lives. It also changed our school work. We all wish for having lessons at school in front of the pupils and not online, that is why we have to strictly follow the hygienic measures. In addition, the best thing is to spend as much time as possible in nature. In my article I want to present a few examples of how lessons can be carried out outside of the classroom. Teachers who work with younger pupils and teach them all subjects have more opportunities to take the pupils outside and can easily adjust their timetable.
Key words: lessons, pupils, covid, nature.
New corona virus heavily cut into our lives and forced us to change our perspective on lessons. Over the night we were forced to start teaching online. Then we got back to school facilities and were told to have as many lessons as possible outdoors. I took my pupils outdoors several times even before this. In my experience, pupils comprehend content taught outdoors with more interest and enthusiasm. I am going to present a few examples of good practice of teaching outdoors subjects like Slovene, maths and science.
1. Advantages of outdoors lessons
Children who are involved in outdoor games are more independent, confident and skilful. Being out in the fresh air is a great advantage. We can carry out lessons in the school surroundings, like school yard, playground or nearby meadow. The richest place for teaching and learning outdoors is a forest. The most important thing here is that pupils love and really enjoy lessons carried out in this way and that they actually memorize much more.
Outdoor physical activities and learning are connected when teaching outdoors. Physical activities also have a positive effect on brain functioning. They help to release stress, burnout, they restore attention and concentration, and improve our well-being in general. Physical activities in nature also have effect on our physical health. Learning something new by visiting a meadow or forest leaves a different impact on children. Learnt knowledge gets meaning and becomes long-term knowledge. Teaching outdoors changes pupils’ role from often passive and sitting on the spot into active and suits them down to the ground.
2. Examples of teaching outdoors
Teachers of younger pupils can teach all subjects outdoors and make interdisciplinary connections. Outdoor lesson can be carried out regardless of season or weather. We can play various didactic activities outside. Pupils need some guidance form the teacher when they observe, listen, watch, feel and smell the environment, so they can completely experience it with all their senses. I am going to present some examples and ideas of teaching and revising the learnt content for different school subjects outdoors.
We can easily replace a school desk by using a hard grounding. Pupils can sit on foam cushions and put their mats with worksheets, notebooks or workbooks on their knees. This way we can revise content already learnt outside and enjoy some fresh air. Work in groups is another possibility that we can easily carry out outdoors, because groups can move further away one from the other and work without disturbing each other. Pupils, learning individually, through various activities outdoors proves to be the most effective of all.
When teaching Slovene we can practise comprehension and implementation of instructions, find synonyms, hypernyms, form different sentences. By naming phenomena, plants, animals, objects etc., we enrichen our vocabulary. We develop gross and fine motor skills by drawing lines with sticks on the ground or in snow. This way we can teach writing letters as well. Reading fairy tales to our pupils in a meadow or in a forest is a special experience for them. They can later pick up natural materials and use it for dramatization or illustrating the fairy tales.
We can achieve aims of all parts of the syllabus when teaching maths outdoors. Pebbles help pupils with counting, displaying the numbers and calculating. Using the concrete materials pupils assimilate the connection of calculation and multiplication. Teaching outdoors is highly recommended when introducing multiplication table. We can discuss objects’ features by observing the environment, pick up materials of different thickness and length. All that picked up material can also be classified by various criteria into different groups or sets according to size, form, colour etc. We can teach how to write numbers, for example, pupils can use wooden sticks to write numbers on the ground, chalk to write numbers on asphalt, or we write the number with some natural material and display it concretely. We can collect various information from nature and then differently display them. In addition, we can draw geometric shapes on the ground or make them out of fruits, find geometric shapes and bodies in nature. We can also assess and measure distance between trees, height and circumference of trees. In nature we find some symmetric things as well. Either we can look for them or pupils make symmetrical objects or images from natural materials (leaves, branches, pebbles etc.).
It is important that pupils learn subjects like science, technology and social studies through experiential learning. We can visit various natural and artificial environments, where pupils observe and learn how they work and what they consist of. We can go outside in all seasons and pupils learn about how nature changes and basic facts of each season. They can learn about different weather conditions, meteorological phenomena and measure the amount of rain and snow. So, a rainy day is absolutely no obstacle, but an excellent opportunity for measuring the amount of rain. This way pupils spend at least a little of their time at school outdoors despite the bad weather, they get some fresh air, take a walk and learn something new at the same time. In winter we can do experiments with ice, study the states of water, measure the air temperature, observe snowflakes, look for tracks in snow etc. In spring and summer, pupils learn about trees and flowers. They can smell and experience them with all senses, which is priceless compared to looking at the photos in their textbooks. Pupils learn about different ways of plants reproducing. Teachers can prepare an orientation run for pupils, where they train their reading of simple maps and orientation in nature. By doing all of the above they train their social skills as well.
Nature offers active learning because of its wide spectre of materials for learning activities, games and exploring. Teaching pupils who spend more time in nature is more effective, experiential, fun and relaxing. We all wish that pupils would like to be at school and teaching them by using various methods outdoors, in nature, and more often, certainly is one of the possibilities to achieve this aim.
My personal experience of teaching outdoors is very good. Pupils learn quickly, because all the activities have a meaning, besides they involve games and lots of physical activities. I hope these presented examples of teaching outdoors will encourage other colleague teachers to use them in their teaching practice.