The sun is shining, the school year is approaching its end and you and your students are sweating under the glare of fluorescent lighting with a background tinge of blue from computer screens. Attention spans are frayed and patience is in short supply…time to swap the blue light for some sunlight and take some lessons outside.
Being outdoors has so many benefits, not the least being the improvement to be seen in all children’s behaviour and learning capacity but particularly in those who are reluctant to engage. It is only through being outside that children gain a healthy respect for the physical world and learn how to sensibly manage the risks it presents. That is not to say you should just ditch the curriculum and all climb trees, it is perfectly possible to organise a few simple lessons that are fun, stimulating and active yet also manageable and relevant. The following suggestions are just a few ideas designed to spark a child’s curiosity and unleash their potential for effective and productive exploration.
Explore shapes and angles with sticks and throw in a bit of team building for good measure. Put the children into teams of four and give each group 12 long and 12 short sticks. Challenge them to make a picture that contains as many shapes as possible and to then write down what shapes have been created and what angles (right, acute and obtuse) they contain. Alternatively, have a competition to see which team can create the most triangles using the long sticks.
This will require a little forward planning but is guaranteed to take the grind out of times table teaching and bridge the gap between theory and reality. Collect plenty of compound leaves. For example, horse chestnuts have 5 leaflets and buttercups 3. Ash leaves are great as they come in a variety of leaflet numbers from 7 to 13 for your more able students. You could even use bracken fronds for the mathematically gifted. Then simply ask the children to work out how many leaflets are contained in various sized collections of leaves.
Again a little preparation will be needed for this activity, unless your school is blessed with a vegetable garden packed with loads of aromatics. Gather together a selection of smelly stuff (for example rosemary, lavender, mint, root ginger, cinnamon sticks and rose petals) and ask the children to select a few items with which to make their potion. Give each child a plastic cup and a stick for pulverising their ingredients prior to adding water. While the potions are brewing, have the children make a label to include their magic potion’s name, its powers and instructions for use.
Whether you like these ideas or have outside lesson plans of your own, just get everyone outdoors: it’s good for all of you!