An ABC of Learning Naturally: X, Yawning and Zzzzzzz

Natural learning: following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.  

 

X
Also known as ‘what-not-to-do’.
Avoid getting annoyed, expect learning not to go to plan, step away from frustrating activities and leave them alone. There’s rarely anyone to blame when learning doesn’t happen – it might be the wrong time for this new piece of information, or more time may be needed for the penny to drop – but there is always another way to look at it next time.

Y is for Yawning
When learning is uninspiring, it’s time to turn your attention to something else. Ploughing on through a boring activity is a waste of time for everyone because the learning won’t stick in the mind, which will be drifting off, as minds do, looking for anything more interesting to keep it occupied. Follow that instead.

Z is for Zzzzzzz
Actually drifting off to sleep is over-tiredness rather than boredom, so it’s time to get some rest, or some fresh air if it’s a stuffy yawn (garden air, walking air and opening the window air are all good). Sleep well, eat well, drink water, be safe; these priorities come first. Then share simple and positive learning experiences and you can all sleep soundly knowing the best learning is the small stuff with the happy memories.

An ABC of Learning Naturally:
Active, Balanced, Creative

Discovery, everyone, Flexibility

Games, Happiness, Individual

Journey, Kindness, Listening

Moments, Nature, Opening the window

Play, Questions, Records

Storytelling and Thinking time

Understanding, Voice, Wonders

X, Yawning, Zzzzzzz

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Understanding, Voice and Wonders

Natural learning: following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us. 


U is for Understanding

It is impossible to teach something you do not understand, but it is possible to learn something new together. Asking for help, looking up answers and working as a team are all key skills in learning and are best shared. Working as a team eases the burden and reaps rewards for everyone.

V is for Voice
Talk is the foundation of writing and so if you are putting pen to paper, talk it through first. Sing, talk, discuss, read aloud, debate, deliberate.

97-256Set challenges that involve sharing and communicating; learn and perform a magic trick , design and play a new sport together, teach someone else a craft you know.

97-256Record or video yourself telling a short story and share it with a friend. Ask them to listen once and retell it back to you, looking at what changed and what was remembered. Continuing this with a group can begin a fun version of chinese whispers and an understanding of the ways spoken stories change as they are passed on.

W is for Wonders
Reflecting on the wonders of nature and people gives a positive perspective on the world, to build upon with joy in your heart and a skip in your step. Taking time to appreciate the awe and wonder of seeing something for the first time, opens the door to valuing curiosity, creativity and care in everything.

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Next time: X, Yawning and Zzzzzzz

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Story-telling and Thinking time

Natural learning -following curiosity, connecting with nature, valuing creativity, caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

S is for Story-telling
Stories are the greatest starting point for any learning adventure, and the most important end to a day. Share them, hear them, use them to inspire tomorrow’s activities, act them out, change them, draw them, map them, tell someone else about them, make them up and tell them. Every day. If this is your only achievement today, you will have done a great thing.

Seasonal stories to share on outdoor adventures are suggested at Muddy Tales on the Dragonfly Wood webpage, with more stories being added all the time. Bringing stories alive with outdoor activity keeps the joy of the pages alive for even longer.

97-256Make your own sailing boat by laying rope out in a boat shape, finding sticks for oars and waving a ships flag as you set off on Max’s adventure to Where the Wild Things Are. When you arrive you can dance and rumpus all the way to bedtime! More here from Making Learning Stick.

97-256Harry Potter’s wand is easy to create and offers a chance to look closely and find out about the different trees near you, their characteristics and uses.

97-256The wonderful Pancakes for Findus by Sven Nordqvist will have you whisking batter and lighting the campfire as soon as the last page has been turned.

 

T is for Thinking time
Thinking time is time well spent and lets new ideas to stick in the mind. Simply daydreaming can be enough for ideas to settle in and new thoughts to pop up unexpectedly.  One of the joys of keeping hands busy with crafts – knitting, colouring, clay modelling – is the space it provides in the mind for new learning to be unravelled, spun and rewound to deepen understanding and memory.

Next time: Understanding, Voice and Wonders

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Play, Questions, Records

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

P is for Playtime
Play is a natural activity. It is how children learn, their reason to be and their job. Children (and grown ups) of all ages learn through a playful approach. Freetime to play is the most important skill you can provide your child. Your presence and participation will make it all the better, for everyone.

97-256Use natural items for play, whether cones, sticks and stones create a play village, a stacking and wobbling game or a piece of creative artwork.
97-256Playing with a new material, like clay and paints, unlocks new ways of using them and works as a good introduction rather than planning and directing.
97-256A new piece of technology, an unknown object like a typewriter, a musical instrument can all be discovered in a playful way, finding out as you go along and try it out, rather than reading the step-by-step instructions.

 

Q is for Questions
Questions are the building blocks of learning, providing the gateways to checking understanding and communicating ideas, to following new curiosities and making sense of the world around us. Encourage questions to be asked, whether the answers can be found or not, and answer questions with ideas, whether correct or not.

97-256Come up with ten questions about nature you see during a walk, and even if you don’t know the science (especially if you don’t know the science) come up with an idea for an answer together. Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly?  Having answers is only one skill; having ideas, using imagination, building on possibilities, generating new questions, asking others, thinking hard are all good use of learning time.

 

R is for Records
It is not necessary to record your learning but keeping a simple bank of achievements will stack up quickly and give a boost to look back through. It must be easy to manage; a collection of photos stored as a folder on a device, a list of ‘I can’ statements recognising new skills and new understandings, a daily diary entry noting the best part of each day or, if you are looking for a special notebook yo use, make your own natural paper.

Next time: Story-telling and Thinking time

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Moments, Nature, Opening the window

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.

M is for Moments
Mindful moments encourage calmness, a sense of wellbeing and build resilience. Quiet time for everyone might be together or separate, might be with a book or some colouring pencils, listening to gentle music, sitting under a tree. Have some every day. Some people simply can’t live without a little time to switch off and press reset, and everyone benefits.

97-256Practise stillness Find a space to sit  and be silent for a short period of time, closing eyes, listening to sounds. Be aware of breathing in and out, plants rustling, the wind and weather, birds and insects. Share your experiences and feelings by talking and drawing sound pictures of the nature you heard.
97-256Breathing tree Find a tree to put your arms comfortably round. Imagine the life forces within the tree: the sap moving, the roots drawing up the water, the leaves converting sunlight into food, the tree “breathing” – taking in carbon dioxide, giving out oxygen. Imagine listening to your tree drink – if you could put a powerful stethoscope on its bark, you might hear a crackling sound as the water moves up through the tubes beneath the bark. Talk to your tree and say thank you for its contribution to life on Earth. Take a deep breath of the air around you.
97-256Memory scents Breathing in a specific smell can invoke memories and instantly transport us back to important times or places. Smell scented herbs or flowers , breathe in and focussing on the scent of each. Can you describe the scent? Does it remind you of anything?


IMG_5435N is for Nature
Being outside is essential for wellbeing and whatever the weather take time outside every day. Notice bugs, hear birds, spot changes and use your daily walk as an inspiration for your learning. Bring small, natural treasures home or take photographs as you walk to use later to begin your story-telling and map-making adventures. Starting a nature table inside celebrates the time spent outside, and begins a museum of natural wonders to spark investigations, questions and discoveries.

 

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O is for Opening the window
Often. Look outside and up at the sky in daytime or night time to observe the clouds, the stars, the birds and the changing colours. Learn the constellations, spot patterns in the clouds, predict the weather, perform with the birds, paint what you see or what you can imagine – hot air balloons, dragons, shooting stars.

 

Next time: Play, Questions, Records

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Journey, Kindness and Listening

J is for Journey
Even when you can’t go anywhere, you can go anywhere with a map. An imaginary story map starts an adventure, a world map inspires a journey across borders, a local map can take you on a new walk. Plan your route, measure miles, learn about places, create symbols. Draw the map of a book you love or create a whole new world on a blank page.

Heading outside on a walk with a journey stick, to record your route with natural items found as you go will provide memory joggers to create a map when you get back to your starting point. Read more about making these ‘muddy maps‘ and making your own orienteering kit here.

K is for Kindness
Be kind to yourself and to each other. It’s the most important thing.

L is for Listen
Really listen to each other. Sometimes the questions and ideas being raised are more than they seem. Can’t see the sticks for the trees is as example of the importance of listening and understanding.

Next time: Mastery, Nature and Opening the window

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.pening the window

 

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Games, Happiness and Individuals

img_3979G is for Games
Get out the cards, the dice and the board games to share together. Teach each other the games you know and make up new ones. Check through the recycling pile for cereal boxes and bottle lids and a new game or two can be created while covering all the skills for the day from measuring squares on the board, writing the rules, developing co-operation and creating artistic decorations across your board. Natural materials make perfectly unique counters and starting materials.

This native American stick game uses twigs wrapped with raffia and walnut shells filled with wax and coloured beads . Roll the walnuts and win sticks according to how many land with the wax facing up and down. Simple changes to other traditional games like mancala and noughts and crosses are a great starting point for creating new games.

H is for a Happiness and health
Keep happiness and health as first priorities, especially when there are other challenges to consider. Relaxation is important every day for everyone (children, teenagers, parents: everyone). Weekend, holiday and downtimes are crucial, whether at home or elsewhere, these times feel different and give brains and bodies time to reboot. Learning time sticks better when we smile, so focussing on the joyful stuff is a win win all round.

I is for Individual
You, your children and your family have their own individual needs, quirks, skills and interests so play to your strengths and enjoy this time when you can follow your own path. There is no right way. Building learning around something you already love, whether it’s ballet, big cats, bridges or bumblebees, provides a motivation where other skills (like reading and writing) can be hidden. Go with what you love and share your enthusiasm.

Next time: Journeys, Kindness, Listening
Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Discovery, Everyone and Flexibility

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us. Find the A, B and C here.

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D is for Discovery
Leave out an item to be discovered to prompt natural curiosity– a map, a photograph, an old camera, a broken item that can be taken apart or fixed, a poem, a picture of a bug, a piece of sport equipment, some fabric squares… any object can spark some interest and take you into a new conversation or creation. Great items that may be unfamiliar to children (borrowed or picked up second hand) like a typewriter, pasta maker or slide projector, left out to be discovered set the creative cogs turning.

 

E is for Everyone
Having an audience is an important motivator so get others involved: family, friends and neighbours. Share learning you have done together, telephoning, asking others to set challenges and reporting back the next day, send a photo postcard by email or snail mail, put a poster in your window or on your gate. Taking part in events and awards – OPAL science data collections, Blue Peter badge applications, poetry competitions, National days – provide their own motivation and audience. Writing a letter to your favourite author or a postcard to a friend overseas can provide exciting replies.

F is for Flexibility
Some kind of routine is important, but with flexibility for when an unexpected turn is taken, learning goes off in a new direction, the weather changes or a plan goes pear-shaped. Times to eat, sleep, relax, walk and tidy up give structure and a daily music time to sing or listen to a song and reading time on a comfy chair punctuate the day. Timetables can help if you like coloured felt tips, but can give an unrealistic sense of how much can be achieved in one day. Let the learning provide the pace, which will be different for everyone and allows more of the important, unplanned learning to seep in.

Next time: Games, Happy, Individual
Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

An ABC of Learning Naturally: Active, Balanced and Creative

Natural learning is all about following natural curiosity, learning by experiencing, connecting with nature and valuing a creative approach. At the centre of the natural learning ethos lies the importance of caring for yourself, for each other and for the world around us.


Active
Being an active learner means getting fully involved, physically moving around to explore and having a reason to want to find out more. Activity aids memory, while sedentary learning encourages the mind to wander off elsewhere. Jump up out of the chair, head outside, make, explore and find out something new.
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Balanced
Sharing time between different areas of learning  provides balance. Physical activity, cognitive brain work and free creative time are equally important and compliment each other.  Some learning will fall into one group and others will overlap. Getting balance in the day can be as simple as allocating an hour to each area.

shapeimage_5Creative
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes; from engineering problem-solving to colourful artistic creations. Being creative in your thinking is the greatest skill, and the best opportunity for later success. Finding a different solution, a new use for an object, an answer no-one had thought of – that’s creativity hard at work and a sure sign of a happy, healthy mind developing new connections.

Ideas
97-256Give a reason to find out information by turning a worksheet into a treasure trail, hanging cards on trees and under stones instead of on a page. Write morse code messages on leaves to be found around an outdoor space.
97-256Works of wonder can take all day and combine active, balanced and creative learning using skills of design, problem-solving, making and communicating ideas. The brief can be really simple; make the longest marble run, make a box with a surprise inside, perform a puppet show, build a den for two, make a hat, cook for an indoor picnic, turn an old piece of clothing into something new.
97-256Go off on an interesting tangent when a new exciting idea is suggested or an unplanned creation pops in the mind.


Next time: Discovery, Everybody, Flexibility

Louise has taught in classrooms of all shapes and sizes, as a primary school teacher, forest school leader and trainer, outdoor learning consultant and researcher. She writes resources and stories for outdoor and woodland learning adventures using the natural learning ethos.

Dandelion Days

It’s easy to ignore dandelions as just weeds, but they are also one of the most versatile teaching tools found in the garden. From making jars of delicious dandelion to understanding life cycles and writing poetry; all much more fun than weeding!

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Dandelion honey: The dandelion is one of nature’s great survivors and is so much more than just a weed.  Its name comes from the French – “dent de lion“, meaning lion’s tooth, as the leaves are deeply serrated – a wonderfully bold and brave name. Dandelions have many uses – they have traditionally medicinal uses. Young leaves can be eaten in salads and stir-fries and are rich in vitamins and minerals. The flower heads can be used to make dandelion wine, while the bitter root can be dried to make a substitute for coffee.

Tastiest of all though is dandelion honey. Make sure you only pick dandelions for edible use in an area that is free from toxins, and leave some flower heads for the bees to make their own honey.

honey-352205_640Simply soak two cups of dandelion flowers in two cups of water over night. Strain to remove all the flower heads, and squeeze all the liquid from the petal pulp. Boil the flower water with the same weight in sugar. (Use the fact that 1ml of water weighs 1g to work out how much sugar you need.) When the sugar has dissolved keep mixing until it thickens, heating for longer depending on how runny you would like your honey. Transfer to a sterilised jar and allow to cool. Delicious on campfire toast.

Dandelion journey:  Dandelions move through their life cycle so quickly that they offer instant investigations, with simultaneous stages of growth often visible from bud to seed. A patch of un-mown and untended garden will almost always be home to a dandelion or two. Make and label observational drawings or take a series of “time-lapse” photos to chart the life cycle.

dandelion-5064638_640Dandelion dispersal: Dandelions seeds are blown by the wind, each seed has its own individual parachute. Wind is one of the main methods of seed dispersal and one of the most interesting to create a scientific investigation around, linking to forces in science, as well as plants. Can you make a parachute for items heavier than seeds, try out different designs, time how long they take to land and describe why the times are different?

BBC science clip – lifecycle of a dandelion: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zhrb4wx

Dandelion maths: Dandelions offer a great opportunity to work with really big numbers, scale, and measure in context. One dandelion plant can produce around 2,000 wind-dispersed seeds. Each individual seed head can produce around 50 to 170 seeds, each capable of becoming a new plant. The seeds are carried on the wind and can travel relatively long distances. Estimate the number of dandelions in your garden and calculate the potential number of dandelion flowers they could produce.

Blow a dandelion seed head, watch where the seeds go then measure the distance to where the farthest one lands.  Why might this distance change?

Dandelion poetry: Children often call the seed heads dandelion clocks, telling the time by the number of puffs it takes to remove all the seeds and disperse them in the wind, one o’clock, two o’clock…  a lovely way to reinforce the language of time. Challenge children to invent a dandelion clock rhyme or a dandelion clock shape poem with the words blowing off the page.

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