The School of Education at Aberdeen University has an interesting new programme for its teacher students. Part of their first year includes a community placement. When word got out about this, many outdoor and environmental organisations in the North East of Scotland offered to host students. Creative STAR Learning Company jumped right on the bandwagon. After all, if we want teachers to take children outside, we need student teachers to have this experience and to consider the benefits and practicalities of outdoor learning and play.
Ana Belen Abadias is a Spanish primary school student teacher who is spending a year studying education in Scotland. She has been the first student to work with Creative STAR and is a gem. From the moment she got in touch, she has been positive, pro-active and a great help. One of her tasks was to write a post for this blog so here it is…
When I first heard the term ‘outdoor learning’, the first image that came to my mind was a group of children going on an excursion through the forest to study the plants or visiting some historical places.
I could not be more wrong!
I realised this when I started working with Juliet and Creative STAR which have done a lot of research and have a lot of experience in outdoor learning. She told me that for her, learning was learning outdoors. I found this idea quite interesting. I’d have never thought that it could be possible to do all the school activities outdoors. Of course, there are some subjects like P.E. and Sciences that are better done outside. But, for instance, it was very difficult for me to imaging doing maths outdoors.
Since that moment I keep on hearing that outdoor learning has an important role in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. But, what about other countries? Is it that important as it should be? This question came to my mind because I’m originally from Spain and therefore, I am used to the learning and teaching system there. As far as I knew, outdoor learning has not got as much importance as it has in Scotland. However, as I was not sure, I decided to look for everything I could find on the Internet about outdoor learning in Spanish schools.
After a lot of research I got to the conclusion that the concept of learning outdoor still has a lot of work to do in Spain. Not even in the law of education could I find an explicit reference to outdoor learning. However, I found some schools in the countryside where they grow their own plants outdoors and take care of them.
The Spanish education system is more worried about making learning meaningful and motivating for children. However, they haven’t thought that outdoor learning could be the solution to this dilemma.
In Spanish Schools a lot of effort is put in doing (short term or long term) projects. The main point of the projects is that they come from the student motivations and they involve team work and everybody’s participation. In these projects you can find that outdoor resources, such as visits from professionals to the school or from the children to specialised work places. However, outdoor learning can usually only be found in rural schools where they have all the natural resources more handy.
I remember that when I was in primary school we used to go walking around sometimes by the river or to other villages. We would also do orientation games around the village trying to find clues to the final objective and twice or three times a year we would meet children from other villages and do activities outside together. But that was pretty much all.
Definitely, if I become a teacher in Spain, I’ll try to do my best and introduce outdoor learning as a useful resource or even a way of teaching and learning.
The text in italics and photos are ©Ana Belen Abadias, 2010.