Outdoor Learning Ideas

In my weekly update last week I mentioned outdoor learning.  Today I thought I would share some of my favourite activities, across the curriculum, that are easy and quick to do!  Some of these have come from Pinterest, some from CPD courses and some from my own warped mind.  My philosophy here is that outdoor learning should compliment your teaching, it should never be an add on.


Splat Spelling

A part of spelling is word recognition.  Could you write the words outside in chalk and get the children to then throw water balloons?  Each time a balloon hits a word they need to read it and then use it in a sentence.


Jump Spelling

Write the letters of the alphabet, in whatever order you like, in chalk.  Children can then jump from one letter to the next to spell the word they are working on.  Their partner can check the spelling is correct as they go!


Senses Poem

I see… I feel… I smell… I taste… I hear…

Simple sentence starters which are suitable for any age group.  The children can write or draw the rest of the line.  I love to do this lesson each season and see how the poems progress.  At the end of the year you have a wonderful poem which reflects on the changing of the seasons.


Time Line

Sometimes it is hard for children to comprehend just how long ago, or how recently, something happened.  A while ago I was teaching a class about the stone age.  I created cards for different historical events from the stone age through to the present day.  Each step a child took represented 100 years.  They quickly understood the concept of time in a way that made it meaningful for them.


Around the Clock

I had a class last year that were struggling to remember their 5-minute intervals.  I had tried everything in class and nothing seemed to help.  I decided then to take the lesson outside.  The children were in groups of 4 and each drew a large clock.  I would then shout a time, i.e. 5 past or twenty-five to and the children had to jump to the appropriate number.  This really seemed to help all children begin to understand and remember!


I Need/ I want

With a younger class den building can be a great way to explore the difference between needs and wants.  They can design their den using basic materials, tarps, string, tent pegs etc.  They start adding things like Playstations, beds, fully functioning kitchens etc to their designs.  This helps open a discussion over what is a need and what is a want.


Natural Art

I love Andy Goldsworthy’s art.  It soothes my cluttered mind and children just seem to get it.  It explores colour, texture, shape and more besides.  I often use his style of art as the stimulus for the first lesson I have outside with the children each year.  The children create something beautiful but you also have the time and space within the lesson to explore some behavioural techniques and ensure the class understand that when learning outside the playground becomes the classroom.


One of the great strengths of outdoor learning in Scotland is how well we all share ideas.  There are 2 websites I truly love though.  The first is Juliet’s http://creativestarlearning.co.uk/ and the other is https://www.ltl.org.uk/scotland/resources.php.  Both have ideas for every age, stage and curricular area.

What are your favourite outdoor learning activities?


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Music in the Outdoors

My school teaching highlight last week was the two music lessons which I delivered to my primary 6 class.  I am not musical and will admit that there were children in the class that understand musical terms and techniques better than me.  These are children who benefit from the council music tuition programme.  Today we will talk about these lessons and later this week we will explore why music education is tricky for teachers yet vitally important.

As I said, I am not musical.  Despite over a decade in the classroom, I still lack confidence in teaching music.  When we lack confidence we reach for our comforts.  For me, that is outdoor learning.  Whilst these lessons started in the classroom, we quickly got out into the playground.

The Grounds for Learning website has some great resources and lesson plans.  I love their plans as they are brief, simple and adaptable.  I used the Bang, Crash, Whoosh plan with a You Tube video from Stomp.  (plan is – https://www.ltl.org.uk/resources/results.php?id=419 , Stomp video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ7aYQtIldg ).  The video helped us explore the difference between beat and rhythm,  different techniques to make music more interesting and “instruments” we could use before heading out to the playground to work in groups.  The children had themselves, their school bags and the bag contents to use as instruments.

Quickly, the children began, exploring different ways they could create noise and the turn that into music.  They worked as teams and communicated well.  Yes, it was noisy, yes it looked a little crazy but yes, the kids were absolutely on task.  They had time in groups to create their music before each group performed for the rest of the class.  What started as a noise soon became music.  The lesson was simple but effective and the pupil’s came back into class buzzing.  They must have enjoyed it as I had the pleasure of observing them from my window at lunch continuing playing with ways to create sound and rhythms.

I had them interested, so it was time to develop the lesson.  As said earlier, I am not musical in the slightest, however, I once had the opportunity to watch an amazing music teacher teach notation and could use his techniques.  Each group created a simple sheet with 8 beats.  Each instrument was represented by a symbol and was noted on a different line.  It may have looked a little like this



We could then explore why we would want a visual representation of our piece of music.  Children, who like me, do not feel talented in this area realised it could really be simple and accessible to them.  They participated and worked together in a way I have rarely observed from this class.

And me?  Well I left the lesson feeling I might just be able to teach music.

Look out for our blog on Thursday where we explore why music education is important.