Outdoor Learning with Team O

by | 27 Nov 2020 | class story

by Team O (Courtney Orrin), Year 2/3 students

Growing evidence continues to highlight the benefits of nature play. In 2019 I had the opportunity of engaging in professional development facilitated by Nature Play South Australia. It was evident then that this was something that was worth embedding into student learning. This training specifically focused on how educators could move their teaching of the curriculum outside, creating what’s perceived as an outdoor classroom. With continued research, I have become aware as to how extensive and valuable these experiences can be.

Covid presented ample challenges, but it became an encourager for time spent outdoors. The SA Nature Play timetable promotes ‘loose parts play’ which explicitly teaches us how to use materials that have no specific directions nor purpose. This play is easily integrated with the Australian Curriculum too, which made the decision of creating a timetable that has a weekly dedicated time to this, simple.  

“As children experiment in this type of play, they are learning and making decisions all the time. What type of rocks and how should they be stacked to make the best tower; can they be used to build a ladder, a bridge or a cave; how many different ways they can be sorted – by weight, colour, size, shape; what happens if they are painted, then stamped, rolled, washed? Everything in nature has a different and unique texture, smell, temperature, taste, weight and design. Their play possibilities are endless. Their uniqueness encourages children to problem solve, and to be creative in how they use these items. And in growing their understanding of where these things come from, how they can be collected sensitively, and how these items can be used, we are helping to grow their connection with the natural world” – Nature Play SA

What skills have they developed so far?

  • Sensory: investigating textures, weights, patterns, shapes and what happens when you bang, rub, crush them together
  • Imagination and creativity: determining what purpose they will have and how they will be used

Developed skills and competency in:

  • problem-solving
  • co-operation
  • decision-making
  • fine and gross motor skills
  • independence
  • vocabulary
  • art
  • math
  • Increases the variety and level of play experiences – social, constructive, symbolic, dramatic, exploratory

Throughout the year, the students of Team O have navigated their way through the Nature Play timetables with the ambition of developing how they immerse themselves within each experience. This has proved to be an absolute success and this became evident as we committed to being a part of National Outdoor Education Day. National Outdoor Education Day is a movement instigated by Nature Play SA. Shannon Clarke and I ventured to Chookarloo Campground, in Kuitpo Forest.

Our adventure commenced with a scavenger hunt; small groups explored the forest whilst collecting data. The students then worked individually to create critters or characters with the resources that they discovered along their hike around the campsite. Heavy branches, long sticks, dried leafy branches and a sporadic collection over other natural goods, had our team building cohesively an array of tepees.  

I felt confident at Kuitpo because nature play has helped me learn more things in the environment” -Lucas

When I am older I want to work in architecture.  In nature play, I have learnt how to build stronger bases and structures. I have learnt from my mistakes and I am really proud because I have learnt how to more patient with myself and others”. -Oscar

The theme for this year’s Outdoor Classroom Day was ‘Love the Outdoors’ and our ambition to build on this within team of two/ three students has been efficacious. In each Nature Play session along with our Kuitpo excursion, our learners have become more resilient, more connected to nature, developed themselves as thinkers, creators and individuals. They have established core skills in team work and communication whilst exhibiting raw joy and a real love for the outdoors.

Spring Poems – When we started Nature Play, I didn’t really know how to use nature but now I know how I can spend time with nature and know how to use my five senses. The spring poem was the trickiest way of using my five senses, but I loved it! – April
Bug Shelter Building: Finding bugs was a bit challenging because you had to dig deep into the soil but it was my favourite session because I got my hands really muddy and I liked building bug homes because we made them feel safe. – Violet
Wintery muddy pies. I liked feeling the warm, soft mud because it was fun to be that dirty. The sloppy mud made me feel calm too. More schools should have nature play. -Ruby
Tepees and stick cubby houses. Building the cubby houses was a happy day because James and I worked in a team. I was really proud of how James and I worked together. -Nate
Self portraits: One of my favourite things was doing both art and nature play together. I was allowed to paint and use things from outside which made me feel happy because we were able to add details and keep going when we were challenged -Autumn
Nature Bugs: It was really hard sticking some of the things down because they had too much weight, they were just too heavy but I learnt what materials I could use. I feel proud when I look at my art hanging in our classroom. -Blake
In winter, we made water gauges from lots of different materials. I climbed a tree so that I could hang it up high because the further it was from the ground, the more water it would catch. It was a good activity because we could use measuring jugs and we got to go tree climbing. -Axel
Our team loves the Bush Tucker garden because there are lots of materials that we can use. I think it is important to have a bush tucker garden because it makes our school look better and brighter and I think it’s important that we can show respect to Aboriginal people. My favourite thing was our campfire in winter because we toasted marshmallows until they were crispy. -Tanner

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