Learning Outside the Classroom – Secondary School Ideas

Learning Outside the Classroom – Secondary School Ideas

Shade Sail array installed at Clarement Senior School in East SussexAs children reach secondary school age their time spent outside both during school time and at home usually drastically reduces, with the exception of those who have taken up competitive sports as a hobby. Learning is much more focused on work within the classroom, usually involving text books. Whilst this can suit some students, it is not ideal for everyone. Taking lessons outside can provide a new fresh environment for students which can help those who struggle to engage with lessons in a classroom.

Not only does an outdoor environment provide a new inspiring area to learn, it also provides more space – allowing you to bring more practical elements into your lessons. Below are our ideas for outdoor lessons for Key Stage 3 students, these lessons can be held outside in the school grounds; to ensure they can be held all year round a canopy or shelter is a great way to provide a sheltered from rain or the sun, to stop lessons getting interrupted by the weather.

Key Stage 3 Outdoor Lesson Ideas:

Geography lessons are perhaps one of the lessons more suited to outdoor learning, as Geography focuses on the world around us, and where better to see this than outside! Subjects such as cloud formations, weather and the climate lend themselves particularly well to the outdoors, allowing students to take part in practical activities such as measuring the weather with the correct instruments, spotting the different cloud types and studying the British climate

Measuring, and handling data tasks can involve and outdoor element, students can conduct surveys and collect data from the outdoors, such as number of birds and their breeds, spotted in 15 mins. Or if you are based in a more urban location the number of red cars spotted, or the number of sirens heard could be recorded and analysed. Students can then gain practice recording this data in various forms and head back inside to

The outdoors gives students an easy way to study local wildlife, if you have a pond in your grounds this is an ideal environment to study food chains and the behaviour of any pond inhabitants. Alternatively an area of the playing field could be left to become wild and butterflies or insects could be studied. The outdoors also provides examples of the changes in environemt, such as the weather, daylight and the life cycles of trees throughout the seasons.

Outdoor space also allows for large scale experiments – such as exploring forces. It is also a great way to teach about different forms of sustainable energy – wind power is quite easy to demonstrate on a windy day and if you have any solar panels at your school these can be monitored by the pupils to give them an understanding of solar power.

English literature and language may not be obvious subject to take outside. However, the outdoors can provide a wealth of material and inspiration to write about, tasks can be set to write poetry or prose about the weather or the landscape or even just the school grounds. It is a great way to encourage students to evoke a sense of place and create writing that appeals to the senses.

Creating art in the outdoors can be a liberating experience – drawing or painting a landscape whilst you are there experiencing the environment can give a new depth to the artwork and allow students to really explore how they show new aspects, such as the warmth of the sun, or an icy breeze. The continual movement of clouds, or animals can allow students to practice capturing a scene quickly, or showing this passing of time in the artwork – something which is impossible if drawing from a static photograph.

Other lessons
Almost all lessons have aspects which can be taken outside, when a lesson requires role playing why not organise for the groups to practice, and even perform outdoors – especially if space inside is limited. Music and drama practice takes on a whole new feel in an outdoor environment and can make an interesting and engaging place to perform.

Not just for lessons
The school grounds offers students a place to socialise and exercise in break and lunch times. It can also provide a dining area “overflow”, and outdoor reading area and or a place for staff, students and visitors to receive some fresh air. The addition of a covered structure creates a space that can be utilised whatever the weather – making the most of your school’s grounds and providing access to fresh air even on a cold wet day. A covered outdoor dining area, like the area at Carshalton High School for Girls works particularly well for secondary schools, as lunchtimes can be chaotic affairs, and if pupils are couped up in the building due to the weather it can create more noise and cause students to become restless and bored. Creating an all-weather area where students can escape the confines of the building and leave the school world behind during their break can allow them to recharge and return to lessons ready to learn.

Tarnhow Dome Timber Canopy installed at Carshalton High School or Girls in Surrey

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Able Canopies Ltd. design, manufacture and install canopies and shade structures
at schools, nurseries and educational settings to enable year-round
Free Flow Outdoor Play and Outdoor Learning.
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