By Mihaela-Viorica Rusitoru
In recent years, educators have been searching for ways to enhance science teaching and awaken the pupils' interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). What they found is that education doesn't have to be confined to the walls of a traditional classroom, but it can happen - and it proves to be very successful - outside, as well. This is how the concept and approach of Education Outside the Classroom was born.
Education Outside the Classroom has many benefits for the cognitive, physical, and affective development of children. To gain better scholar outcomes, we need to observe and identify some fundamental rules. Our research in the field enabled us to outline some main principles that we want to share with the OTTER community, as follows:
1. Lifelong learning: Education Outside the Classroom can easily be integrated within the Lifelong Learning approach given that teaching and learning activities in the middle of the nature or in the museum involve learners of different age (children and teachers). Moreover, these activities not only help pupils during their childhood, but also equip them with transferable skills they will need throughout their lives.
2. Integral learning: The other side of the lifelong learning is that Education Outside the Classroom promotes all kinds of development: intellectual, social, moral, affective, religious, sportive, artistic, musical, etc. This holistic approach combines complementary learning activities and courses to help students acquire more knowledge and develop diverse skills at the same time.
3. Regular learning: Recent research in neurocognitive sciences proved that it is more productive to distribute learning contents in small parcels several times than to regroup it once in longer training sequence. When we learn, we need time to assimilate and integrate new information and to use it as a foundation for further learning. So, learning outside the classroom must be regular and frequent.
4. Natural learning: Despite learning activities organized in the classroom, learning activities offered outside the classroom give the opportunity for children to be in direct contact with the natural environment, to experiment natural things (flowers, plants, insects, wood, stones, rocks, etc.) and get familiar with their surroundings. Students will then develop a special relationship with their environment and they will learn to appreciate and preserve it.
5. Challenging learning: Teaching and learning in the traditional classroom seem to be more secure, compared to activities outside the classroom where teachers must pay a special attention to children. By learning outside the classroom, children are more likely to explore the environment, which is strongly linked to taking risks. These activities allow children to take responsibilities and initiative, to have courage and to investigate more deeply the world around them.
6. Tailored learning: Most of the time, education outside the classroom is part of the non-formal or informal education, focusing on alternative pedagogies and learner-based approach. During the educational activities both students and teachers learn from each other, enrich their knowledge, and develop their skills. Through Education Outside the Classroom, teachers are trained and encouraged to identify the learning needs of the children and to propose to them the most appropriate activities, the ones that foster motivation, curiosity, and the joy of learning.
7. Community-based learning: as promoted nowadays at all levels, education is best offered in a community so that children feel have a sense of belonging and a desire to make a positive contribution. Education is, first of all, a social environment and children learn more and better when they work together with their peers, adults, and parents ready to share their knowledge. Learning collectively is more fruitful than learning alone, and from this point of view, Education Outside the Classroom offers the opportunity of collaboration and mutual learning with those around you.
- Dehaene, S. (2018). 13 conseils pour mieux apprendre. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMvzA5SfBGk
- Forest School Association. (2011). Principles and criteria for good practice. Available at: https://forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice/
- Nicolas, L. (2022). L’école-forêt de A à Z. Available at: https://mapetiteforet.fr/la-sylvopedagogie/
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova