Happy New Year! To kick off 2020, here are 10 things that you have to look forward to as an educator utilising your outdoor space to make learning authentic and awesome. Well done you.
1) More frequent ‘Outdoor Learning International’ Inspiration
2020 is our year for being more proactive with posting on our blog, so hold on to your hats. In the near future, be ready for mud kitchen inspiration, ideas for developing space using wooden pallets and taking maths outside with a focus on measurement. Our hope is to develop a community of sharing Outdoor Learning ideas and expertise. Feel feel to take inspiration and use any ideas that spark your fancy, and let us know what you think. If you’re into that, click the “Yes Please” button on the right to receive updates.
2) Same clothing, different day
Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day. Barack Obama only wears blue or grey suits. Decision fatigue is a thing, and it suggests that you tire from making multiple decisions throughout your day. People like Obama and Jobs limited their clothing choices in order to minimise their decision making so they could make better decisions later, be those in the worlds of technology or politics.
My current clothing of choice are my Fjallraven Keb trousers and my Montane Extreme Smock. I look exactly the same, everyday. This is not because I am an avid Jobs and Obama fan, nor is decision fatigue avoidance high on my list of priorities. I’ve found what works for me and I’m sticking with it. As the old saying goes: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Find what works for you and stick with it.
3) Skip diving on the weekends
Did I say weekends? This is not really confined to weekends. Any time that you walk past a skip, you’ll be looking in it. We were recently doing the German Christmas Market tour with family and came home with three large wooden bobbins that had been skipped at our local building site. Cheers.
4) Pity vs Jealousy
When you’re walking along the corridor in the depths of winter looking like a puffed up onion in all of your layers, you are bound to get looks of pity and maybe even a, “Ooh, I don’t envy you in your job today”.
On the other hand, roll on the summer time when it’s 25+ degrees and you are sauntering along in shorts and T-shirt. Those looks of pity turn to scoffs of jealousy and you get things like, “Is your job really a job?”
Possible responses include:
- “Speak to me in 6 months”
- “It sucks to be you”
- “Here’s some research about how my blood pressure and immune system are better than yours”
5) Goodbye manicure, hello grubby calluses
When you’re working hard to facilitate epic hands-on learning experiences for your young people, you are not going to be able to avoid getting those hands dirty. The good news is that research suggests getting your hands dirty is good for you and it might even be an antidepressant. Win.
Take care of those hands and remember to wash them. A spot of hand cream also wouldn’t go amiss.
Top Tip: a pinch of sugar with a spot of soap will get out some of the more ingrained dirt. Like a homemade Swarfega, that stuff your Dad had under the sink growing up.
6) Things in pockets
As an indoor teacher, I would usually arrive home with at least one whiteboard pen in my pocket. As an outdoor teacher, I still have the occasional pen but my pocket booty is so much more wonderfully varied. Acorn hats, bits of wood, bits of tree, a Pokemon card… the list goes on.
Top Tip: Empty your pockets before going home, or prepare your partner for a magical variety of gifts on the kitchen side.
7) The Smell of Fire
Using fire lighting as a learning experience is second to none. Smelling of fire afterwards is not so great. Some people will tell you how they love the smell of fire and how it brings memories rushing back of when they… blah blah blah. How wonderful for them. Smelling of fire everyday because you’re halfway through your skills unit can be a bit tedious. Nobody has ever complained at me on the tram home, but it might happen one day.
Top Tip: get hold of some Febreze. Febreze is your friend.
8) “But I won’t be cold…”
This is the response you get when you tell a student who has just come inside from recess on a cold day to get their jacket for outdoor learning. Generally, you can go one of three ways:
- “This is not a discussion. You’re not coming out without a jacket” – This may sound a little harsh but when your outdoor time is limited, this conversation with seven different students only makes it shorter.
- “OK, your choice” – You know that you’re right, but our actions and choices have consequence and what better way to learn that than through the medium of shivering?
- “Bring your jacket and hang it up when we get there, then it’s there if you need it” – The compromise. Invariably, the jacket will get worn before you even get halfway through the lesson and you can quietly bask in the glory of being right.
9) Becoming a chainsaw meerkat
Picture the scene: You’re walking back inside after a long lesson out in the cold, looking forward to that well-earned cup of tea and then you hear it. You pause. Could it be? It’s definitely there, but where is it coming from? That guttural yet beautifully sweet song that is the sound of a chainsaw.
Whether you’re making your circle of logs for the first time or topping up your firewood for next year, nothing beats free wood. When approaching a tree surgeon, be sure to do so safely. Find out who the boss is and ask nicely if you can take some. Very often, you’re saving them some time by taking away some wood. Depending on how nice they are, you might be able to specify the shapes and sizes that you want. You also might need to just take what they give you and cut it up yourself.
Top tip: have a couple of bottles of beer lying around to graciously thank any chainsaw master that lets you take some offcuts. If you don’t have any tree surgeon friends, make some.
10) According to the research, you’re going to feel great!
In a world where Forest Bathing is becoming a thing and doctors in Scotland are prescribing ‘nature’ to help with a patient’s treatment, you are in a wonderful position to be able to take learning outside as part of your job. Good for physical health and mental health, the research is out there.