Once I began to read this book, I could not put it down – and that for me is one sign of a really good book! The introduction all rings true, giving important rationale points and highlighting what teachers already have: ‘the skills and competencies to teach outside as well as inside. … any approach to learning and teaching usually works just as effectively outdoors as it does inside’. Importantly, as the author points out, ‘teachers have to make an effort to learn how to teach outside on a frequent and regular basis – we have been conditioned to think indoors’.
This is not meant to be a textbook but rather a springboard for experimenting – it is packed full of great already-trialed ideas that can be taken, refined/tweaked and improved – to make it suit the particular and specific needs of your class.
So why bother about ‘the outdoors’? Outdoor learning is an umbrella term that covers everything that happens outside the classroom – adventurous activities, Environmental Education, team challenges, international expeditions or playground games. In the US, a whole movement exists to ‘get outside’ – to engage kids that are not interested in learning in the normal/sit-in-the-classroom methods, alongside growing numbers of children suffering from obesity and ‘nature deficit disorder’ – the recognised condition where a child grows up with a complete disconnect from the natural world! More and more children in the United Kingdom now seem to have a similar disconnect – and this book is an excellent first step to explain ‘how to’ get outside!
The book itself is structured so that you can read from cover to cover or dip in and out as needed/time permits. The author intentionally did not include detailed lessons – but rather ideas that can be tailored to each group or situation.
Before You go Outside is all about ‘being prepared’ – many experiences go wrong because of a lack of adequate forethought or planning. The First Few Sessions helps you to transition from indoors to the outdoors; Creating and Constructing includes concrete ideas for projects such as den building which may be new to some teachers; Exploring What’s Out There highlights the things/ideas that might be ‘under your feet or nose’ but we could so easily miss – treasure hunts, trails, maybe using mobile technology to enhance the experience; What To Do In Concrete Jungles deals with the challenge of a school without easy access to ‘beautiful school grounds’ and how to use a ‘blank space’ to create opportunities – think about what you have!
The last section regarding Cross Reference of Ideas to Subject Areas – so how different subjects can be taught outdoors – is very useful for teachers, whether they see outdoor learning as a subject or a method.
In response to the issue of ‘there are already so many books about the outdoors – why do we need another?’ My reply is another question: ‘Why was this resource, which so very eloquently brings ideas together and “joins so many dots” – not written earlier?’ Highly recommended – essential inspirational reading for every teacher!
Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Outdoors by Juliet Robertson. ISBN 978-1-78135-107-9. Independent Thinking Press, Wales, 2014;. SC 224 pp. £16.99
There’s a 20% discount to NAEEUK members for orders placed here using the promotional code Dirty20.