Weather – it is important to think about the direction of the sun and wind. Ideally your class should be downwind of you so your voice carries towards them, and be facing with their backs to the sun so they can see you clearly.
Structure – there is an element of experimentation to outdoor learning, and often it can pay off to keep lessons flexible as children may find something you didn’t expect or come up with a different solution to a challenge. However having a basic structure and a focused activity based on the topic you want to learn about forms a good central foundation that can be built upon.
Curriculum and learning – outdoor activities are particularly good for catering to different learning styles, cross-curricular learning and can promote reinforcement of learning done in the classroom. Therefore it is a good opportunity to plan lessons around these concepts.
Assessment methods – not being able to demonstrate progress during outdoor learning can be a concern for some teachers, however there are ways to record the achievements and learning that happen outside. Photos of activities and products of activities, as well as children’s quotes and your observations of their achievements noted on post-its, can be stuck in their exercise books or form a display. Keeping field books or nature journals is another good idea, as well as encouraging class discussion and feedback afterwards, perhaps with groups giving presentations on their discoveries.
Pre-existing fears and perceptions – be sympathetic towards children that may be nervous of going outside, attitudes at home can amplify worries of ‘stranger danger’ or a need to keep clean and tidy. Gentle encouragement and positive experiences outdoors should really build their confidence and help them realise that dirt is not a bad thing!
Behaviour and expectations – entering a new environment can be exciting, and as much as you want children to have more freedom in the outdoor classroom it is a good idea to clarify beforehand that most of the same behavioural expectations apply as in the classroom (listening, being polite and respectful etc).It can also be useful to set up a meeting point, and boundaries if necessary, so that if the class are off exploring they know how far they can go and where to return on hearing a signal such as a whistle (you could even make it a race)!
Adult helpers – encourage adult helpers to show enthusiasm even if the outdoors is not their cup of tea. Indifferent or negative reactions from adults towards things such as findings and weather conditions can limit or diminish a class’s eagerness for the lesson.
A talk or starter in the classroom, thinking about the topic and activity, and setting up expectationsWalk to area of main activity. This could be an activity in itself to engage the class, such as a spotting game (e.g. collect as many different leaves as you can on the way/see if you can spot 3 green things, 2 blue things and 1 yellow thing).Main activityWalk back. This could be used for discussion and a summary.