Teaching and learning outside the classroom

Issue: Volume 97, Number 14

Posted: 13 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9jvn

A professional learning and development opportunity is encouraging teachers to embrace the outdoors as their classroom.

There’s something paradoxical about sitting inside and taking part in a professional learning course about the benefits of teaching outside the classroom. That’s why the ‘Nature is Our Classroom’ programme is now delivered from various outdoor locations in the catchment for Te Awarua o Porirua Harbour.

The aim of the course is to inspire and support teachers to recognise the value and importance of education in the environment.

Enviroschools facilitator Amanda Dobson says education outdoors is the foundation of education for sustainability.

“It’s about exploring and being curious, and observing and using all your senses. We want the teachers experiencing that so they feel motivated that that’s what they need to be doing with their students,” she says.

During the programme teachers spend time connecting with local places (Place Based Education) by slowing down and spending time in the bush, harbour and local streams.

Another important aspect of the day is acknowledging and valuing mana whenua. Teachers are welcomed into the space and learn about the history and importance of local areas. By taking the curriculum outside and showing teachers how natural objects can be used in activities related to literacy, numeracy and science, the course reinforces that learning should be holistic and integrated.

The teachers also have a chance to try out these ideas with colleagues and discuss how to apply them to their own students and contexts.

One of these activities was creating nature journals out of upcycled materials, with help from Pātaka Art + Museum educators.

Teachers then made sketches, rubbings, traced around leaves, and wrote poetry, diary entries and observations in their journals.

Teachers explore ephemeral art experiences using natural resources found in the landscape.

Community knowledge, including local stories, anecdotes and years of accumulated scientific knowledge, was shared by Forest and Bird at the Pāuatahanui Wildlife Reserve.

The teachers also heard from scientists and experts from Mountains to Sea Wellington, who talked about stream health monitoring and helped teachers explore the harbour shoreline.

‘Nature is Our Classroom’ is a collaboration between Enviroschools and the Porirua Harbour Trust, with support from the Philipp Family Foundation and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Porirua Harbour Trust Education Coordinator Rebecca McCormack says people need to spend time exploring, learning and developing a love for nature to develop a strong and personal connection to it.

“A few years ago, we were standing in a room with only a few windows, presenting a powerpoint to a group of teachers telling them to take their kids outside,” she says.

“We realised that we couldn’t keep on doing this, we needed to role model the things we were talking about.

“Teachers come along wanting to learn facts, and want advice for ‘action projects’, but we take it right back to the basics and help them remember what it’s like to be a curious, playful child who sees things adults don’t see – wonder, awe, joy and being in the moment.”

For resources on teaching using nature as a classroom visit Nature is our Classroom 2018(external link).

For information on the professional development courses email Rebecca McCormack at pht.education@gmail.com.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 August 2018

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