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First seminar at SLF13 was Julie Wilson with Ten reasons why outdoor learning closes the learning gap for children and young people and what a great place to start.

One of the things I like about SLF is gaining more familiarity with recent publications, and getting a better handle on how my own work fits in. So, for example, I was aware of the Play Strategy for Scotland when it was released, but with so much happening at work, reading it cover to cover just wasn’t an option at the time. Having the strategy put into context in advance of reading means there’s actually brain involved and not just eyes following words.

Anyway, we were guided through ten reasons why more learning should take place outdoors – at least there should be ten, but I’ve only got nine written down.

Play structure in Berlin by tracy the astonishing

Play structure in Berlin by tracy the astonishing

Along the way we looked at play structures in Berlin parks which immediately reminded me of games I’d played as a kid in the back green and in the field behind my house (derelict land formerly used for greenhouses): fewer primary colours, not always weeded, but plenty of room for playing with water, playing with dirt and above all, playing with imagination.

We also watched video clips of nursery children working out how to build a bridge, discovered links between David Sobel’s seven themes for outdoor activity (like making trails and befriending small creatures) and Carl Haywood’s core functions for cognitive development (embedded in the Bright Start programme) and how learning to control the functions of your body can lead to controlling the functions of your mind.

OK, I’m sold, so how can I take the library outside? I suppose that emphasises what a library is actually all about. If you think of resources, librarians are researching them, supplying them, teaching people how to access and use them, and helping re-create them in new formats. Well, a book and a tree are both information sources; you just have to learn to read them in their own ways. And libraries are also about fun and enjoyment and relaxation, and perhaps the most important thing we learned today was that there’s evidence to show that people are more happy and more hopeful when outdoors. What outside spaces does the library already have access to that I can take advantage of?

I’ve long been an advocate for using the wonderful country park just beyond our school, and we’ve gone walking there with the Photography Club and for our interdisciplinary work on local tourism, but what more can be done? My work is all about collaboration with teachers, but the final decision will always have to be theirs; I can only suggest. To be fair, the secondary timetable does not lend itself to going for extended walks, and neither does our weather (for example, our trip to Stirling Castle) but why should that stop us? We won’t melt in the rain and senior management have been extremely supportive.

Some ideas old and new:

  • take the pupils out for a walk to gain inspiration for creative work (my Art colleague, LS, already does this, but why not English or Dance or Music?);
  • take the pupils to gather photographs of their own town for languages work (tried this a few years ago, but constantly defeated by extremely bad weather);
  • and one from Glasgow University’s School of Celtic and Gaelic (at SLF13), create street-name walks around the local area (I am dying to try this out!)
  • bring more outside stuff inside, preferably stuff that won’t die, because I can guarantee I’ll accidentally kill it, but as part of displays (not my strong point) or just as tactile material to be about.

How to take the library and its work outside is definitely something I’ll keep thinking about.