Professional Development in the Outdoors

Submitted by Andy Barclay on Fri, 05/25/2012 - 09:49

Professional Development in the Outdoors

Amongst the many pleasures of working for Cornwall Outdoors is the opportunity to deliver professional development in the outdoors to a wide audience of adults. Our courses range from the technical skills of leading adventure activities such as sailing, mountain biking, canoeing and moorland walking to improving professional practice in the school grounds.

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to spend 2 days with this year’s cohort of SCITT students with the brief of providing them with opportunities to experience a broad menu of outdoor learning; adventure activities, personal development and enriching the curriculum. The first day was based at Porthpean Outdoor Education Centre and the second at the National Trust’s Lanhydrock House. I am indebted to one of the participants Kate Malnick, a self-confessed outdoor education addict, who very kindly wrote the words below. Thanks to the outdoor education team at Porthpean – Mark, Jonathan, Simon, Steve, Brian, Richard – for a great venue and a brilliant afternoon. Thanks also to Kathy and Matt at Lanhydrock and to Sandie Hawkey and Matt Oakley for their inspiration in the woods and around the grounds.

Outdoor Learning SCITT programme – Kate Malnick

"For children who live in a world surrounded by technology, the wonder of the outdoors can be more commonly absorbed through the interface of a screen than by stepping outside. Virtual experiences and explanations are no substitute for encouraging and supporting children to become confident, experimental, independent and resilient lifelong learners. Essential skills that are a difficult to teach in the classroom, team work, compassion, and assessed risk are addressed when learning outdoors.

The first day at Porthpean begins with risk assessment; the theory is really not that scary! It is interspersed with very humorous pictures and discussion, after which we were released in small risk assessing teams into beautiful Charlestown. A short feedback session follows, and then we are let loose to try the activities available for the children at Porthpean. This was amazing, in particular the high ropes. As a group of trainee teachers, it brought out the best in all of us. One person bravely took on their fear of heights; with the support and encouragement of both the instructor and the rest of the group she managed ‘the leap of faith’. We loved this rare chance to get to know each other better and experience the teambuilding spirit.

The second day at Lanhydrock brought another variation of outdoor learning. Teaching us how to take ‘normal’ lessons outside and using nature to inspire and cement learning. We looked at the property as a springboard for creative writing and literacy, using the buildings in the context of history to encourage ideas and interest. One of the most inspiring activities was the angle hunt, where we found obtuse and acute angles in trees and sticks. We made collages and pointed out the range of angles to the rest of the group. Using nature to explore numeracy and using the environment to create mathematical art gave all of us several ideas of how we can use this within our own school grounds.

The woodland learning element of the training was very exciting. After gathering sticks to build a fire, we were all transfixed watching the flames. We sat together sheltering from the rain under the tarpaulin, cooking marshmallows, bread and popcorn. There are so many ways that these ideas can be incorporated into the curriculum; for me, gathering together children and carers to make a fire around which the children can perform their own stories has truly transformed my teaching.

In a brief summary (as there is so much more!), not only did this course teach us many things about ourselves and each other, but it opened our eyes to the endless teaching opportunities that are waiting just outside of our classrooms. So if you would like to learn how to create experiences for your children that resonate throughout their lifetime and yours, then get in touch with the team and I am in no doubt they will inspire you and your children as much as they did all of us."

The Future

Having spent a couple of days with a vibrant group of prospective teachers I am heartened by the enthusiasm for outdoor learning. This is such an important part of children’s education. I’ll leave you with the words of renowned educationist Mick Waters:

“You can’t learn about the outside if you are on the inside.”

For information about activities offered at Porthpean Outdoor Education Centre contact Mark Peters on porthpean@cornwall.gov.uk

For more about woodland learning and using your school grounds contact Sandie Hawkey on shawkey@cornwalloutdoors.org

To book the Learning Room at Lanhydrock (it’s free!) contact Kathy Blick on Kathy.blick@nationaltrust.org.uk