Taking learning outdoors

I’ve got no fabulous art projects or process art to share with you of late because we have taken a keen interest in learning outdoors. The more I do it, the more convinced I am of the value of taking learning outdoors. Sure, we face lots of limitations in our neighbourhood in terms of the landscape; we live in a concrete jungle after all. But in all things, I usually try to make the best of the situation.

We don’t venture a whole lot out on our own without my hubby to drive us around but that doesn’t stop us from taking learning outdoors. After their weekday scooting/ playground time, we’ve been going round the sporadic patches of grass around our block looking for fallen leaves, flowers, twigs, fruits to collect. And we’d use those items, whichever we’ve picked that day for our learning.

For instance, last week we picked so many fruits on the ground! After playing some games with them (think games which we used to play during Physical Education class), we got down to some learning. First we practised how tally marks make counting easier (presenting her a real scenario to use what she had learnt in the Math U See curriculum we’re using), then we also put the fruits in groups of 3 and 5 (we’d collected 15 that day so it was quite perfect to illustrate that 3 groups of 5 = 5 groups of 3).

I drew 3 bowls on the floor using chalk and got the kids to place 5 into each ‘bowl’ first then I drew 5 bowls and got them to place 3 in each ‘bowl’. She was able to tell how much 3 groups of 5 would make because we’d covered skip counting by 5s but she wasn’t sure how many fruits there’d be if there were 5 groups of 3. It’s not so easy to understand but we’ll work on that! 😀

I certainly didn’t aim to collect that many fruits; neither did I plan to revise skip counting. But the situation presented itself, and I made use of it and I love the flexibility in the way we’re learning.

taking learning outdoors

Little boy has no concept of 1-1 correspondence as yet but he’s happy just moving those fruits around.

In my years of teaching, no matter which level I was teaching or which subject I was teaching, I’d say some of my best lessons were those that I hadn’t planned for. You never know what would happen in the classroom because something could have happened earlier in the day to the student/class and you might not be able to carry out what you had planned so you make the best of what you have and you think on the spot what you can do to keep the lesson going. I’ve found teaching young children to be the same – in fact even more challenging as you realise your ability to be flexible is taken to new heights. Take the cue and move the lesson in that direction.

During one of our walks, we discovered a mimosa plant near one of the trees and the kids had a blast just touching those leaves. Certainly, I didn’t expect to find the mimosa during the walk. In fact during our walks last year, there weren’t any.

Later during the same walk, my girl noticed a plant which seemingly had leaves that looked like those of the mimosa so she exclaimed that it was another mimosa plant, but why did the leaves not close up too, she asked. So we made an exception and plucked one of those leaves and brought it back to the mimosa for comparison and she practised her observation skills without even realising it. Once side by side, it was apparent and she immediately drew the conclusion that the leaves of the mimosa plant were (i) narrower and (ii) a darker shade of green.

Taking outdoors can be so fun and I shall be exploring more ways to integrate that into our homeschool!


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One Response to Taking learning outdoors

  1. Tiffiny says:

    This is a good reminder that we should get outdoors more often to intentionally experience the world around us. We’ve been a bit cooped up this season because of the cold and wind, but today was an exception so we got outside finally. I totally agree that some of the most impactful teaching happens without planning for it. The key is to be open and watching for those teachable moments, as you demonstrated. I love experiencing that with my toddler now that I’m home with her.

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