Outdoor Learning from a distance: What our eLearning looks like.

As with most of the world, our school here in Germany has closed its doors and moved over to an eLearning platform. We are communicating through a variety of online methods to ensure that home learning can be accessed by all learners in our international community. Now two weeks in, we’re starting to really notice what is working well and would like to share  some of our celebrations.

Project-based Learning

Working at home will not, and should not, be an exact replica of the finely tuned day children experience at school. There are many other authentic, real world learning experiences that the children will be having at home too. Providing project-based learning experiences allows students to work through tasks at their own pace. The open-ended nature of this kind of learning promotes differentiation by outcome, as the students are able to extend their inquiry in many directions, as their home learning environment allows.

Daily Videos

Just like at school, each morning children are greeted by our beautiful, happy faces welcoming them to another day of home learning. Creating morning video messages is a fun and personal way to connect with students, giving them a window into your daily events. So whether it’s balcony planting, wormery checking or sharing fun facts on Fridays, give your students a positive start to the day by sharing snapshots of your home learning!

Give it some beans

The German government announced school closure on a Friday and stipulated that all schools must open Monday & Tuesday to allow parents to prepare. Cue teachers scrambling to get eLearning up and going. In this time, we were able to source enough paper cups and bean seeds to send home one cup and two beans with each home learning pack. Fast forward two weeks and we have the Grade 3 students busy tracking their growth with measurement and the Grade 2 students now have a great purpose to create a structure, as part of their current unit of inquiry.

Padlet

If you haven’t used Padlet yet, it’s time to take a look. It’s an easy to use website that allows guests to share a variety of media without a login. When posts appear, it organises them like post-it notes on a pin board. It is possible to like and comment on posts and we’re finding it a great way for students to stay connected by sharing their learning. Above and below are examples of the kinds of things students have been sharing.

Happening Now

With our current guidelines still allowing people to go outside, it’s been interesting trying to strike a balance between learning experiences that can happen inside and outside. Either way, practical has been the way forward for us. In Grade 2, as part of our structures unit, students have been drawing designs, building forts and experimenting with both pyramids and post and lintel construction techniques. In Grade 3, we’ve been measuring the perimeter of objects both inside and outside. The focus for next week is going to be on getting outside. We’re providing a range of choice for students to engage with, from bug hunts and mapping to bird watching and land art.

Working with our current central idea “Living things are suited to their habitat”, Grade 1 students have become researchers. They have been inquiring into the ways their chosen mini-beast thrives in its habitat. Though painting pictures, creating dioramas and going on mini-beast hunts in their garden, students and parents have become experts on the living things in their local environment.


So there you have it. This is what we’re up to right now in these unprecedented times. Let us know how you are keeping learning going in your community. Stay safe and stay healthy.

A Beginners Guide to Art in Nature

Art in Nature. Land Art. Transient Art. Call it whatever you like. Taking learning outdoors using art as your vehicle can be an awesome place to start. The following pretty much makes up a unit of inquiry that happens with our Grade 2 students at the beginning of the school year. Comment below with other ideas you have, let’s get this sharing started!

1) Rainbow chips

A lovely way to get started is to use a Joseph Cornell activity called Rainbow Chips. This is basically a colour hunt where students are provided with coloured objects and their goal is to explore the space to try and locate that colour. When they find it they find it, switch for another colour and so on and so forth. Some people use colourful bits of broken pottery for this, colourful gems also work. Our favourite is to nip down the the local DIY shop and liberate a whole load of paint colour samples (ninja skills/confidence required). Up to you, whatever you can find.

Liberated paint sample cards

2) Start the conversations

Colour is an element of art. When we look at a piece of art, colour is something that we can comment on. At this point, we might whip out a classic Goldsworthy print and try to identify some colours. Enter stage right, the other elements of art. Value, texture, shape, line, form, space, & perspective. The opportunities for developing language and vocabulary here are boundless. Introduce in whichever way suits your style but be sure allow time for students to explore the outdoor space to find examples of each thing. At this point, our students are collecting what they find using Book Creator.

Using Book Creator to collect examples of space

At the end, bring back your Goldsworthy (or other) and see if students can comment on and give their opinion, linking in to their shiny new ‘Elements of Art’ vocabulary.

3) Get inspired

Start talking about transient art in any school and you’ll get… “Land Art? Have you looked into Andy Goldsworthy?” And of course, being the grandfather of the scene, his stuff is the bomb. He’s got plenty of books out there but there is also a range of things on Youtube, like this and this, that are good for inspiration. Andy is great, but please don’t stop there! Marc Pouyet’s books (especially this one) are also an excellent source of imagination kickstarters. Even a quick search for #landart on Twitter will open up a whole load of other folk who are doing some pretty cool stuff too. People like @RFjamesUK, @escher303, @TimPughArtist and @LandArtforKids are a selection of our favourites.

4) Create

Give it a go. Crack on. Go outside and create. Depending on resources that you have available, you might want to restrict the amount of materials, or not. We advocate the old “No Pick, No Lick” as a general rule in our Outdoor Learning space. Not because we don’t like fun. Because we find that if every 2nd grader decides that they want to use those leaves from that bush, then we end up with pretty naked shrubbery.

While creating, encourage students to make conscious choices as artists. Why have they chosen that location? Have they notice the texture of the rocks that they’re using? What can they tell you about the value in the acorns that they’re arranging in that circle?

Creating can occur multiple times, of course. To mix it up a little we’ve found it interesting to challenge our artists to use only one type of object. For example, only conkers or only oak leaves.

The abstract discussion is an excellent way to add depth to an Art in Nature session. Does our artwork need to be something? Can we leave it open to interpretation? Do we find the abstract discussion is accessible to all 2nd graders? Absolutely not. Sometimes, your artwork just needs to be a house with a pool. Sometimes, you just need to sit in a patch of sun a lick a rock.

5) Focus on one thing

If you have students that are not sure where to start, encourage them to focus on one element of art in particular. Shape, perhaps. Our old friend Andy G loves a good circle. Why not try some different shapes? Shapes within shapes? Lots of the same shape? Regular shapes? Irregular shapes? Is an oak leaf a shape? Shapes.

6) Gravity Glue

Michael Grab, or Gravity Glue as he’s better know, is a wonderful way to segue into something a little different. Check out the video below. Rock balancing can result in a calm and relaxing flow state, enhanced by deep concentration (closely followed by infuriation as the whole thing falls on your toe). Fun fact: rock balancing championships are a thing.

Gravity Glue

Alternatively, find out what an Inuksuk is, and give one of those a go!

7) Go for a walk

Inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. We like to head off down to our local section of the Rhine. In the past, inspiration has come from cool things that we’ve seen en route and also the beautiful location when we get there. If nothing else, we find that a change in location offers copious amounts of new materials and more space than our regular Outdoor Learning locale. Where could you go?

Our local stretch of the Rhine River. It looks worse in the rain.

8) Get inspired… again…

Are musicians artists? So, if we bash together a rock and a stick, are we creating art? Experiment with different ways of playing objects that you can find in your outdoor space. How many different ways can you play your log? Try making a thunderstorm. Everybody grabs their favourite noise maker, one person conducts and sets the dynamics.

Music from Nature – Diego Stocco

If you’re lucky enough to have access to devices which support GarageBand (a wonderful tech-integration team helps too), then have a go at creating some Diego Stocco inspired compositions. This is cool stuff, make no mistake. It’s also pretty difficult to get the end result sounding anything like Diego, but the process can be awesome.

9) Don’t forget to look up

Who doesn’t fancy spending time laid out on the grass looking up at the white fluffy things? This is great for our line of inquiry which considers people responding differently to same stimuli. Not possible everyday so you have to pick your day. An easy way in is this book. Get outside and lie on the ground.

10) Share

Whether you host an exhibition for family and friends, post photos on Twitter and Instagram or just leave your artwork for the random public out walking their dogs; sharing your work is a must. Get students to prepare a blurb for their creations, linking back to elements of art and their inspirations. In our parent exhibition, students stand by their piece and explain their choices as artists, but these could be written also. If you’re posting on social media, remember to connect with the people that inspired you!

PYP Blurb