Parachutes outdoors are great!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Candlemas is coming

On Thursday, 2nd February it is Candlemas Day.This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.  Must do something outside with candles...

It made me think about people long long ago before heated houses and electric lights and how they must have really celebrated the sun being aound more, especially in the north.

I did a husky trek in arctic Sweden and Norway 2 years ago and still keep in touch through the Tromso husky centre blog.  They were commenting  on how the sun had come back last week after a long dark winter! 

Children and adults nowadays don't always feel the rythmns of the sun, moon and seasons like our ancestors did.  Something to talk about on Thursday and think of a sun returning celebration party perhaps?

Being in the arctic in winter certainly gave me a taste of this and when the sun came up in the late morning it was very much appreciated.  The  trek also made me feel close to our planet and to nature and the wilderness.  Happy memories!

Fractions of quantities

Last week, once I had done lots of smaller warm up activities on the way to the playground, we did the main activitity of the day. 

While studying fractions, my class had managed to find 1/2 or 1/6 etc of a quantity on paper indoors but started struggling with finding 4/5 or 2/20 etc.  Some of their answers were so way off it showed me that some pupils really didn't understand the concept and some were just following the instructions to divide by the denominator then multiply by the numerator.  Some pupils had answers larger than the total quantity and couldn't understand why this was back to practical equipment...and outdoors...

I set up a team race activity in the playground.  Each team were seated in a huddle so they could discuss the maths involved and 2 pupils per team were selected to race together each time again allowing discussion.  Each team was given a bucket filled with beads (stones would be good too).  The buckets were placed some distance away and started with 60 beads in each. I was keen the pupils saw fractions of quantities as something real, instead of just numbers in a textbook or on a page.

The first pair of pupils from each of the 3 teams was asked to collect 2/20 of the beads and the first pair back with the correct number of beads in their collecting jar scored 3 points, 2nd 2 points and 3rd 1 point. 

The next pair of pupils were asked to collect 1/6 of the beads remaining in the bucket.  One team quickly worked out that if they discussed how many beads were left in the bucket each time it saved their team members from counting them when they got there.  This encouraged mental arithmetic

After 8 pairs had gone we were left with one bead in the bucket so we put all 60 back in and started again with different fractions to find.

The feedback from my class was very positive and I could see an improvement with the calculations.  Interestingly some of the pupils who were getting full marks in the classroom with these kind of problems, were struggling at first as they hadn't related the questions with actually finding a quantity of objects.

There was certainly a lot of talking about fractions going on and a lot of fun racing eachother.

Playground chalk maths

While recovering from the flu, the last couple of days,I have been looking through my photos and found some from last year where my P7 class were drawing triangles, life size drawings of sea creatures from scale drawings and making up their own maths games to revise different areas of maths.  Some pupils combined ropes and chalk to make more complex games.  The one in the last photo was a carefully measured equilateral triangle to stand inside as part of the game and the children really liked the fact you could stand inside a triange and get a different perspective.  Hopefully they will remember the names of different types of triangles  now!  Simple but effective and something I haven't done yet with this year's P7s.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Our Scottish poetry

Well, dreich as it was we headed out to the woods. I told them snippets of information about Robert Burns on the way out. 

We found a sheltered spot and sat and listened to "To a mouse" and "Address to the haggis" before we all sang Auld Lang Syne.  Many of the class had never sung outdoors before.

We then shared our favourite Scots/Doric words.

For the last 15 minutes the class had to work in pairs to come up with a short poem, including some Scots if they knew the words.

Here are some of our poems

We sit upon the dreichit dyke
As the cauld wind dances on our skin
The auld beech tree covered wi' craws
And a coo stares bleakly at us
As we sit upon the dreichit dyke
We dinna kin why we are here!

Robyn and Sophie

A birdie flees awa up high
While thy wind blaws by
Through the trees and bushes
As the dreichit weather hings ower
Oor wee village
As a birdie flees awa
As the sna scattered all ower the ground
The timid beasties settle doon for a lang winter nap.

Nadia and Orla

Ma lugs are freezin and so are my taes
And also I hate these dreich days
Ma nib is rinnin' and ma moo is blue
And that's the end of us two!

Ellise and Rosie

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Rabbie Burns ootside!

It's Burns night tomorrow night so I have decided to take my class out into the woods and discuss our favourite Scottish words, play them a couple of Burns' poems (on my phone!) and then we can sing Auld Lang Syne outside!  Will be interesting to see how it goes.  Think we'll then get some poetry ideas from our outside spaces and write some short Scottish poems. 

Outdoor Learning Conference

Was at an Outdoor Learning conference all day today.  Always good to hear from staff in other schools, sharing ideas etc.  Some lovely ideas and good to hear about all the partnerships folk have developed in order to achieve their dream outdoor spaces.

Our task from the day is to get our own schools to use an outdoor space away from the school grounds.  There was some debate about whether this was the best way forward for schools when the school grounds are being underused by teachers at the moment.

Which comes first - confidence in outdoor learning in school grounds or in a place a 10-15 minute walk away from the school?  I'd be interested to know what you think?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Bringing outside inside!

Something I really like is to have a nature table in the classroom which changes with the season and gets added to when we are outdoors doing any activity - a few feathers from the playground, seeds, leaves etc.  It makes us more observant and I even get pupils bringing in things from their weekend walks etc.

In these times where our children are getting more disconnected from nature, it is, I believe, a valuable addition to the classroom.  Many pupils commented that they are not allowed to touch/pick up stones, bones, feathers etc!  Some sensible hand washing rules and disinfecting bones etc allows them to handle natural objects and hopefully make more connections with the outdoors.

At the moment we don't have much on the table - some winter twigs (from a twig hunt in the school grounds and local woods), deer antlers - red deer antler I found and a roe deer antler one of the class brought in from the local woods.  It will be great to see how it develops as we approach spring.

Importantly, the class are encouraged to handle the items and in summer a bucket full of 6 different sea weeds was a great success (if a little smelly by the end of the day)!

Outdoor maths

Last week my primary 7 class headed off for the school main door from our classroom after estimating how long it would take to get there.  Estimates varied from 1min 30 secs to 10 mins!  It took 1 min 23 secs.
Once outdoors we looked for shapes (2D and 3D) along the side of the school building.  Most pupils missed the pentagon - the side of the security light on the wall so we started looking closer and had some good discussion about all the shapes seen. 

We have a number line marked on the ground along the school grounds so we worked out 1/25 of 100 (as we have been looking at fractions) and had to then jump along the number line in 4s  This highlighed a lot of pupils who couldn't work out moving up the line in 4s after they reached 40.  We often assume tables are secure for most pupils at this level so this was useful for assessing how secure they were.

For the final section of path each pupil estimated how many steps/hops or jumps it would take them to reach the top.  Not all very accurate but at least it got everyone warm on a cold frosty morning.

All simple activities but the pupils loved doing them outside and it allowed some revision of various maths topics before we headed to the playground for our main activity on fractions. 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

How children see the natural world

I am reading "Last child in the woods" by Richard Louv and would highly recommend it.  It has made me think (amongst many other things) about our school playgrounds.  My school has a playground with a climbing wall, seating, football pitch, slides, a brightly couloured play area made with plastic and metal and a wooden play area.  Many of the pupils have said to me their playground is boring and as an adult it is hard to understand as they seem to have so much.

After reading this book, I realised that our school playground is all set up for organised play.  In Richard's book, there is a quote about it only taking 6 pine trees to make a forest for young children.  I remember my own school playground had a huge fallen tree which the school amazingly left on the ground for us to play on.  We scaled the root system. bounced on the long trunk and hid behind and under it.  It was a base for games, a shelter, a look out and an adventure playground and much more... 

There is a lot being done in Scotland at the moment to try and add more natural objects to our playgrounds for free, creative and active play.  It's definitely something I will be discussing with my head teacher.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


I really became interested in Outdoor Learning in 2010 and I am discovering the benefits for my class and myself with each outdoor experience.  I plan to share my thoughts  & experiences as well as ideas for outdoor learning with upper stages classes. 

The New Year has started well with my class going outside for maths, PE and some filming.