Taking The Learning Outside Of The Classroom

On Friday I had one of many new parent tours at the EC campus. I normally talk to the parents for a few minutes to gauge their understanding of the PYP and to better comprehend their expectations. We take a walk through the school, starting with Nursery, on to Kinder and then upstairs to Prep. On this particular day as I walked into the classes I was only able to talk about the rooms, the environment and the setup, as each room was void of children, and it wasn’t even lunch time!

So where were the children and where was the learning happening…….everywhere, except in class?

As we approached the lunch room dance practice with Prep was in full swing in preparation for next week's Dance Festival.

Out in the garden in the beautiful spring sun, Ms Chiara was showing the children how to weave on the newly constructed frame, a part of the structures unit. The children were extremely relaxed for late on a Friday afternoon, chatting as they weaved and hammered decorative bottle tops into the wood; all from our recycled hoard of treasures. Working with objects on a large scale is extremely important for young children's gross motor skills. It gives them opportunities to use their whole body and strengthen all of their core stabilising muscles. These in turn influence the finer motor skills needed to function as they learn, for example sitting on a chair with correct posture and holding writing implements. If a child doesn’t have the ability to control these movements in class they can lose focus as so much of their energy is used on concentrating on how to sit and pay attention. Therefore taking students outside and working on large scale projects is fundamental to healthy developmental growth.

Heads were not bowed over desks or looking at screens as Kinder researched roles for their current unit. Instead the students were out really looking at what is going on in the community. What jobs and responsibilities exist inside and outside of our school? One question that came up was, 'How does lunch get to the dining room'? There is a system and Kinder G explored and documented this. They took photographs at strategic points along the route and then put them into the correct order in class showing how the network works efficiently and that everyone has a role to play .

Kinder S went out into the community and discovered the many roles in the neighbourhood. They visited the garage next to school and saw Luigi washing a car. Then they stopped off at the alimentari where the kind shop keeper demonstrated the specific aspects of his role. These opportunities to interact with adults in the real world give the children the opportunities to use their language skills, learning how to question, listen and relate the knowledge back to the other students in class.

Nursery are caring for living things, they therefore took a walking trip to the local garden centre to inquire about looking after plants. They returned jubilant with gifts from the very kind lady, begonias and herbs to add to our small garden. Having these hands-on experiences is so very meaningful giving importance to the ladies role in caring for her own plants and adding another level of learning.

Early on in the year, the Nursery teachers purchased a water tray, so as the sun came out this week we took it out of the box ready to assemble.

Then we read the instructions.

Baffled we handed the job over to the logical Ms Alida who along with Mr Vigneault and the Prep V children tackled the puzzling plan and amazingly put together the whole structure in record time, which was a perfect activity for them in their current unit of ‘Structures’. The students worked systematically and collaboratively, figuring out the logical next steps independently. Once the whole thing was completed one child chipped up’ Can we take it to pieces and start again?’

It became a whole community effort as Ghin, Antonio and Alberto tightened up the screws.

Learning outside provides a myriad of opportunities. Aside from the obvious fresh air and sunlight, it allows for more physical pursuits, freedom and skills that differ from those in class. This is particularly important for those children who learn best through active movement. The off site experiences provide opportunities to interact with others, learn about the community but also by bringing these moments back into school they create a catalyst for play and conversations. Play and learning that flow seamlessly between indoors and outdoors allow us to make the most efficient use of all of our resources and help us to build on the different interests expressed by the students.


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