By Elena Kotsovos
Head of Primary School, The International School of Paphos
Moving lessons outside opens up a new world for pupils and teachers. Learning outside the classroom can be fun, memorable and exciting. Better behaviour, better health, better attitudes towards the environment, nurturing of creativity, enhancing communication skills, great memories of school – these are some of the benefits of teaching lessons outdoors which Educationcity.com has highlighted. It is these significant benefits that inspired our school-wide theme, ‘Beyond the Classroom’: not all classrooms have four walls!
The primary school of the International School of Paphos (Isop) celebrated Outdoor Classroom Day recently, embracing the theme and transcending beyond, introducing and inspiring outdoor learning and play. This project developed positive feelings, emanating throughout the school. Children worked in teams to solve problems, discuss, contribute ideas and give each other feedback, consequently encouraging peer relationships. Teachers started to think outside of the box and developed phenomenal activities beyond the classroom, taking the children on a journey filled with adventure.
Activities related to the senses, free drawing, recycled bird feeders, ensuring awareness of how to take greater care of the playground environment, mathematics and art focusing on dinosaurs; ancient Greek theatre, looking at the world from a new perspective; vastly diverse subjects such as yoga and contributing to the community and planet are a few of the ideas that emerged outside the classroom walls. These experiences made it clear that teaching outdoors encompasses a whole new world of teaching!
According to the article 11 Proven Benefits of Outdoor Learning (BachelorsDegreeOnline.com), other studies have found social adjustment, self-concept and group cohesion improved through outdoor education. This is one of the reasons our primary school decided to join the global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play.
Outdoor Classroom Day is celebrated worldwide in May and Isop relished the preparations for this adventure.
Contributing to the community has played a fundamental role in this year’s theme. Becoming involved in Outdoor Classroom Day has stimulated teachers and pupils to venture outside and give back to the community. The campaign has also been linked to numerous lessons during the course of the year. Pupils took part in a walk-a-thon during Math Week, collecting sponsorship money, calculating laps walked, and time taken, supporting a child through ActionAid. This year, the pupils have decided to sponsor a second child. Pupils also took part in a Market Day project. This gave the children a chance to exhibit their entrepreneurial skills, selling goodies to their target market. The school’s atrium turned into a market place for two consecutive days, buzzing with activity. The pupils were definitely engaged and motivated in this charitable venture. As Aristotle said, “educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” Isop pupils affirmed this through their altruistic hearts.
The money raised will be donated to Friends’ Hospice and the paediatric department of the Paphos general hospital, linking this to our school’s 30th birthday celebrations focusing on celebrating by giving. There is a great deal outside our classrooms that pupils need to explore and discover about the world around them, learning valuable life skills.
Although learning in the classroom has benefits, the increased motivation from teachers and pupils pertaining to learning beyond the classroom has been phenomenal and rewarding. Considering all the advantages from studies, outdoor learning may be something all schools should try to incorporate. We need to remind ourselves of Dennis Eaton’s Cognitive and Affective Learning in Outdoor Education. He found that students’ cognitive abilities are commendably developed outside the classroom rather than inside – and Isop has set an example of learning beyond the classroom.