I am reluctant to force children outside to learn. I think it can breed resentment. Also in many schools in which I work, children do not often have the necessary clothing and footwear to stay warm and dry.
Several months ago I walked into a Primary 7 classroom to work with the children on outdoor maths. Typically, the weather outside was dreich. It was cold, wet, snowy, windy and most unpleasant. So, I had tweaked the activity to offer an indoor alternative.
At the moment I arrived, the class was voting on ideas to improve their learning. The class voted overwhelmingly in favour of “Getting outside more.”
After I had explained the activity, the children were given a choice. Do the activity indoors. Do it outdoors. Do one part indoors and go outside for the other part. I also showed the children the cheap, plastic rain bags designed to be popped over jackets. I think these rather appealed because the class voted 15 to 6 to do the WHOLE LESSON OUTSIDE!!!
The purpose of the lesson was to explore and compare different ways of measuring using standard and non-standard units.
In groups, the children had to measure the width of the basket ball court using a trundle wheel, measuring tape and a ruler. The aim is to look for margins of error.
The next task was to measure the basket ball court as a group. This involved a couple of activities. The first part involved lining up in order of armspan, from largest to smallest. The person who had the median armspan became the unit of measurement for the group. So if this is Fred, then the group is working in “Freds”.
Once the median arm span is known, it is possible for the group to make a line of people to cross the basket ball court all with their arms stretched out. The number of people it takes to span the court is the number of “Freds”. Fred’s arm span can be measured . This multiplied by the number of “Freds” and you have a measurement. (Thanks to Julie Mountain from Learning through Landscapes for suggesting this approach many years ago on a training course).
To measure the perimeter of boundary such as a basket ball court, a group can have fun by doing this as a group. The children hold hands to create a circle. The circle then walks in a clockwise direction from on corner “rolling” around the perimeter of the court. It’s a bit like a huge human trundle wheel. The trick is to remember how many people are being used. The answer can be multiplied by “Fred’s” arm span to find the perimeter of the court.
The weather was so awful that no group spent too long outside. It was a run to get back into the warm, cosy classroom and enjoy the heat.