It set out 12 resources that I thought every outdoor learning space should have:
A few days ago while on Facebook, a teacher had posted a photo of an area outside their room that was unloved and under-used. They were curious about the way that they could get some more life from the space. It had potential, but had become a bit of dumping ground for things no one had a use for.
So, what can you do to spice up an area like that?
Without spending a load of your own money, and without trying to get school to spend any either.
I started having think about what I would do given the chance and I posted a couple of thoughts, but after a sleep it didn’t seem enough and I had more thoughts. I started to jot them down and the end result is this post.
10 ideas coming up...
10: A table and chairs
OK, so it is pretty obvious, but cheer up the table by painting it with blackboard paint (One of my favourite resources). It makes a great way to give activities for children of any ages, from writing and maths tasks to drawing a railway track to push the trains around. Easy to clean and multi purpose.
9: A Whiteboard
Most schools have an old one in a shed or garage. This can be quickly mounted on a wall at whatever level is appropriate. Personally, I like them to mounted at almost floor level, as this gives the children a wider opportunity to write, draw and record whether seated, standing on the ground.
Offer the children maths puzzles, treasure hunts, writing prompts… secret codes… whatever your imagination or curriculum requires.
8: Little Whiteboards
You know those tatty ones that you put at the back of a cupboard or the bottom of the drawer because you ordered some nice new ones? Yeah you do!
Hole punch them and hang them outside on a hook, tack them to fence posts or trees with a nail or two, hide them in the grass or flower bed. Great for science and natural observations. You could just put them in a box or tray and let the children use them at break times for games of squares, hang-sheep (exactly what it sounds like!), speed poems, anything.
Lots of chalk… like all the chalk…
There are so many uses for chalk, I am not even going to insult your intelligence...
Windchimes aren’t my favourite thing - I’ll be honest about that, but there are a lot of people that like them. If you are going for a zen feel then there are lots of ways to make them.
CD/DVDs when they catch the sun create a lovely play of lights and rainbows. I use them successfully as bird scarers in garden plots too.
And of course for little hands a CD makes a very lovely writing surface. Writing with WB pen can be changed, writing with a permanent marker will last, hang your writing from trees and fences or even in a local park… like a flash mob, but for a real audience.
4: Guerilla Gardening
“Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property.” Wikipedia
So you do have the right to garden, but in those unloved little corners, against the walls, on the edges of playgrounds have you brightened those areas?
If you have a paving slabbed area, then simply lift a slab and just add seeds of bedding plants. Easy and attractive, and will give your class something they can be responsible for.
I wrote about using tyres for planters too here:
3: String, Wool and Rope
All three of these resources can be used for weaving, threading and tying knots. Threading old skipping ropes (they are in that box at the back of the PE cupboard, the ones with the knots in no one can untie and looking grubby) through fences, between branches and weaving ribbon, wool or twine around trees, chair legs and people is great fun and looks fantastic. A really good way to work on fine and gross motor skills with younger pupils.
2: Sheet Plastic or Tarpaulin
The first and most essential resource for den building for a start!
Aside from that, tarpaulin allows you to create shelters or cover wet ground to sit on. Other resources can be set out on a tarpaulin and left, or crime scenes, meteor strikes and archeological digs can be protected from the elements.
Clear plastic sheet is great fun to be underneath in the rain, watching the rivulets and pools form and poking them to see where they go next.
The last tarpaulin I had has kindly donated by a local farmer - they can be sourced quite cheaply.
When you have a small space to develop mirrors are a fantastic resource to create light and space. A mirrored wall can give sense of depth and the reflective surface brightens the whole area.
There are a lot of places to by them but these are some of the cheapest:
4 30x30cm mirror tiles: http://www.dunelm.com/product/pack-of-4-mirrored-tiles-1000056606
They can be written on using WB pens, or chalk markers which cleans off easily.
I would like to leave this example from a friend and Outdoor Learning Practitioner. She has this at home for her sons and the story they wrote together made me smile. The boys are 7 and 5...
If you have any outdoor spaces you are proud of and would like to share please tweet me @WatsEd and I would love to create a gallery to accompany this post.