Taking learning outdoors in KS2

January 1, 2021

Outdoor learning is quickly gaining popularity amongst primary teachers during this pandemic. After all, the outdoor environment is the safest one we can be in right now. Plus, educators are still noticing the effects on children from the first lockdown and are finding that a hands-on, active approach is the most effective method to engage them. When we look around at outdoor learning resources and support available, it’s largely geared towards Early Years and Key Stage One. So Key Stage Two teachers could be forgiven for thinking the approach isn’t suitable for them, but here at Alfresco Learning we want to change that. Read on for an inspiration kick to get you taking your Key Stage Two class outdoors this year . . .

Before we really get stuck in, let’s just address the fact that outdoor learning is typically prevalent in Early Years (and often KS1) and think about why there is so much less support for KS2 in taking the curriculum outdoors. It is these factors that often create a barrier to outdoor learning for KS2 teachers and stop them from stepping outside but they really don’t have to!

The KS2 curriculum is more knowledge driven than KS1 and Early Years

This can make planning outdoor lessons much more challenging because if a curriculum focus is skills based it’s much easier to plan active learning to deliver it, and when you’re outside the environment demands that the children are up and active. However, it’s not impossible to plan knowledge based objectives outdoors, it just takes a little bit of creative thinking, that often comes with experience of delivering outdoor lessons. That’s where we come in! Our Outdoor Planning Hub offers lesson plans and activities for you to take, adapt and deliver, saving you the time it would take to build that experience and creativity to plan those objectives outdoors.

Head over to our homepage for a free LKS2 and UKS2 bundle of planning!

Children’s attitudes to outdoor learning

Today’s children are spending less and less time outdoors and this impacts on educators. By the time children reach KS2 they have developed quite a firm opinion of the outdoor environment. Some are under the illusion that the outdoors is a space only for running wild and free with their friends, others think it’s a dirty and uncomfortable place to be. Not many children associate their school’s outdoor space with it being a place for learning.

With the children being that bit older, it can prove a little more challenging to establish your outdoor space as a learning environment and to build the children’s confidence in interacting with nature (yes, those children who think the outdoors is dirty or disgusting usually have fear attached somewhere from lack of interaction with nature).

Most advice given to educators to tackle this is aimed at younger children and can be a little bit ‘fluffy’ for older children. But by creating boundaries, clear expectations and building the children’s interaction with the environment slowly, these issues can quickly be moved aside in KS2 too! Think about it as you do the first day in a new classroom with a new class; you don’t dive in head first, you plan activities that settle them into their new environment and provide a transition period. Beginning outdoor learning with KS2 requires a very similar approach!

Results, results, results.

There’s a lot of pressure throughout school surrounding data and results, but particularly so in KS2. Traditional, formal teaching methods are usually thought of when considering yielding good results. However, the outdoor environment is proven to bring many benefits to academic learning. A study by Dadvand, P et al (2015) found “an improvement in cognitive development associated with surrounding greenness, particularly with greenness at schools.” This study was conducted on primary aged children and found that those who undertook cognitive tests after spending time in nature excelled in their development of working memory compared to those who were in an urban environment. They also found that inattentiveness in the children observed, reduced as a result of spending time outdoors. Proving that connecting with nature has the potential to bring about many academic and behavioural benefits too, holding the potential to boost attainment levels.

Hopefully that’s got you thinking about taking the curriculum outdoors in KS2. If it has, wonderful! Make sure to have snoop around our website, there’s lots of freebies in our blog posts. If you would like to see more resources, support and ideas for taking your KS2 class outdoors, you can keep up with us on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter!