Five Steps to Transform Your Students into Explorers for Outdoor Classroom Day

By Daniel Raven-Ellison

As a National Geographic Explorer and a geography educator, I’m really excited about #OutdoorClassroomDay this Thursday (October 12).

Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to inspire and celebrate outdoor learning and play. On the day, thousands of schools around the world take lessons outside and prioritize playtime. As well as having fun, they will show how important and easy it is to give children more time outdoors.

When teachers take learning outdoors, they report some powerful impacts: Children’s behavior improves, whole classes are excited to learn, and individuals who feel inhibited by the curriculum often thrive in an outdoor environment.   

As a geography educator, I believe that exploration is the physical manifestation of how we think about and experience our most meaningful geographies. A geography education without actively learning how to explore places is as perverse and frustrating as teaching music lessons without sound.

A geography education without actively learning how to explore places is as perverse and frustrating as teaching music lessons without sound.

So far, an incredible 19,000 schools and more than 2 million students are involved in Outdoor Classroom Day. While this is a big number, I think we should all be far more ambitious and leave no child indoors. I’ve got some tips to help make your Outdoor Classroom Day a success.

I believe we are all explorers, and we are all exploring all of the time—even if we are being passive about it. Proactive exploration is a great way to get your students outdoors. Exploration can be free, feral, playful, artistic, scientific, serious, planned, spontaneous, short, long or a combination of all of the above. Whatever the mix, I think there are five key steps or making an exploration happen and for transforming into an explorer. These steps can quickly be turned into a learning journey.

Five Steps to Transform Your Students into Explorers:

  1. Have an idea

Use your experience and imagination. What, where, who, when, how and/or why will you explore?

  1. Plan

What do you need to make your exploration successful? This might involve maps, charts or the internet.

  1. Search and realize

Go out and physically explore to have experiences and make discoveries.

  1. Record

A “recording” could be as simple as a memory, much like an unspoken oral history. How can findings be recorded scientifically (readings?), artistically (rubbings?) or both (mapping?)?

  1. Share

How will I most enjoy sharing my discoveries? A performance?

The idea for the exploration itself could be as simple as a game of hide-and-seek, but for each of these steps you could get as technical and deep as you wanted. After all, the military is one of the world’s oldest and largest industries, and much of its research, policy, investment, and practice is underpinned by its abilities to both hide and seek.

To give you some ideas of some simple explorations that you can do on Outdoor Classroom Day, here is a selection of missions taken from Mission:Explore Outside the Classroom, a book that I co-created along with my friends Alan Parkinson, Helen Steer and Tom Morgan-Jones.

Download this PDF and Get Involved in #OutdoorClassroomDay!

mission explore

Outdoor Classroom Day is about more than just one day; it is a catalyst to inspire more time outdoors every day, both at school and at home. It believes that teachers have the power to inspire other teachers, parents and the wider community to give students the time, space and permission they need to play and learn outdoors. It is advocating for 90 minutes of playtime in every school around the world. Everyone can do something to make sure children experience the benefits of being outdoors. Parents can encourage their child’s school to get involved and take steps towards more time outdoors at home. Anyone who cares about childhood can help spread the word about the importance of outdoor play and learning.

I hope that you are already signed up, planning to get involved, and spreading the word. (Want some more ideas? Take a look at ten ways our educators get their classrooms outside!)

So that countries can participate on a day that suits their climate and fits with their school term times, the global campaign has multiple dates—the next Outdoor Classroom Days are on 12 October and 17 May 2018.

Get involved with this Thursday’s Outdoor Classroom Day by visiting the website and using the hashtag #OutdoorClassroomDay on social media.

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