Why we need curiosity and how outdoor learning can foster it
There are numerous articles which discuss the benefits of promoting curiosity amongst children of today.
Most evaluate the current education system’s tendency to push out children’s creativity and drive towards attainment targets and set curriculums instead.
Wendy Berliner states that, ‘teachers who concentrate on developing focus and good behaviour because of the links to good academic performance, now need to take on board that developing curiosity could be even more important.’ (Guardian: Jan 2020)
Ken Robinson’s TED talk, ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ is well known to education professionals, but how can we ensure we cover all of the curriculum, help our students to achieve the exam grades they deserve, whilst ensuring we continue to promote creativity and curiosity?
Many schools have now adopted a ‘creative curriculum’ which has looped back to planning in ‘topics’ and creating cross-curricular links across subjects. This has enabled a degree of creativity in teacher’s planning, however, some schools have recently argued that this is still not effective in promoting curiosity as is it still objective-led and planning is still pressured to cover particular outcomes by a set time frame.
Being a classroom teacher for over 20 years, I totally understand the constraints and pressures that teachers and schools are under to fit everything into the timetable whilst enabling students to progress and achieve in tests. In addition, new recommendations are constantly arising which state that children should be participating in hours of this and hours of that every week in order to grow into healthy adults. Boris Jonson claimed that schools should provide two hours of PE daily, (N. Morris, 2012), and Angela Hanscom writes ‘kids of all ages should get at least three hours of free play outdoors a day,’ (Angela J Hanscom, 2016). This is on top of the time needed in the weekly timetable for core and foundation subjects.
Most teachers, I would imagine, go into the profession as they have the desire to make a difference to a child’s life and aim to help them to achieve their full potential. Most teachers would therefore try to fit in all of these demands the best they can within their school’s own aims, resources and timetabling restrictions.
So how can we ensure we fit in all of the increasingly demanding curriculum, whilst still promoting curiosity?
What about if we, as educators, became facilitators to curiosity? By committing one hour a week to outdoor learning, we could help to grow a culture of creative thinkers and problem solvers.
By shifting a bulk of classroom objectives outside, where they can be explored in practical real-life scenarios and outdoor experiments, children’s ideas and curiosity can be nurtured. All subjects can be taught outdoors. Each child could take the lesson’s theme on a completely different learning journey depending on their interests and ideas. Children’s experiments and investigations could foster not only curiosity but also deeper-level understanding and thinking skills. Children could learn from others simply by watching and listening, or by presenting their findings back to others in fun and imaginative practical ways with nature.
Children would then be able to use these analytical skills inside of the classroom. How can we aim to shift a child’s mathematical thinking to reasoning and a deeper ‘mastery approach’ in understanding of concepts if they are not used to thinking in analytical and inquisitive ways? How can we expect them to understand and solve problems if they are not given the time to practise such skills? And how can we expect them to understand all of these facts and figures if they have not been given the chance to experience them in real-life situations?
Outdoor learning needs to be consistent throughout all primary ages, if not beyond. Teachers of children in KS2 also need to have the confidence and backing of their head teachers to venture outside more often and to commit to outdoor learning time each week, as well as those in EYFS & KS1.
In a world where our natural resources are being depleted and we hear more negative stories of doom and gloom each week, surely we need to create a world of innovative thinkers and problems solvers who have a connection with our planet; rather than a world of ‘regurgitators-of-facts’ and ‘already-tried-and-tested-techniques’ who merely have the opportunity to glance at our planet through the window before their sense of wonder is crushed and their attention shifted back to the indoor whiteboard once again.
All children need time outside to look; time to explore and time to ponder. Time outside to reflect on their learning and time to relate it to the real world. Time outside to give them opportunities to try it, test it, poke it, and question it. Time to turn it inside out and discover new, better ways of doing things all by themselves.
Download our FREE ‘Curiosity Challenge’ HERE. Two simple activities which you can do outdoors with your class to promote creative and experiential thinking.
Want more ideas to take your lessons outside? Click HERE for information about our Teacher/ Leader subscription which gives you instant access to over 800 outdoor plans, ideas and resources.