Teach on the Beach
Learning should always been fun, motivating and inspiring for children. It is very simple … when children feel this way, they want to come to school. They’re happy, enthusiastic, engaged ... everyone wins … parents, teachers and most importantly the children themselves.
For these reasons outdoor education and play have always been huge passions of mine. I love looking for new ways to bring the outdoors into our curriculum and for years now have been busy reading every book, blog, website I can get my hands on to find out more about how other countries do this successfully … Finland is my favourite at the moment!!
Up until this point I have limited exploring the outdoor environment with my class to the “good weather months” … which on Barra can be very few and far between … sometimes it’s just April!! So with the New Year starting I decided I wanted to shake things up and get outdoors with my class as much as possible and in all weathers!
I’ve named this new project “Teach on the Beach” because our school is situated in one of the most stunning locations in the country, surrounded by beaches on all sides and I felt that these beaches would provide the ideal starting point for rich learning opportunities for my little ones.
Before I go on to tell you about our first “Teach on the Beach” session, I need to tell you a little about my class. For the last few years I have taught P1-4 which means the children I work with are usually between the ages of 5 and 8. Working with this age group can have its challenges. As a teacher you feel under a certain amount of pressure because you have the responsibility of helping provide pupils with the building blocks of literacy and numeracy which will set them up for the rest of their primary education and beyond as well as ensuring their start to school is a positive experience so they settle quickly. However, it is also such a rewarding process to be a part of. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child who you started teaching their Jolly Phonics sounds progress to picking up a book and start reading to you all on their own.
In a word, my current class are awesome. They are such a sparky, bright, enthusiastic little bunch. They are smart, inquisitive, funny, creative, kind … I could go on about them all day long. I know you’re not meant to have favourites … but this crew are pretty special and they make my job an awful lot easier. I must also add that I am very fortunate with their parents as they are super supportive and are always willing to get involved when and where they can.
I always knew that for this project to be successful it had to start with the kids, it couldn’t be forced or driven by me. This needed to be much more flexible and begin first and foremost with what the children were interested in learning. This is why the aim of our first Teach on the Beach session on Thursday 11th January 2018 was simply to go to the beach to play. That’s right … just to play!
Play at times can be such an undervalued part of children’s education and lives in general. One of the other books that I am currently reading is “The Danish Way of Parenting” … it’s a brilliant read with lots of practical tips and advice from the nation that are widely considered to be the happiest in the world. In the book it talks a lot about letting go of the need to over structure our children’s lives, to relax more and just let them play. With this in mind I wanted to use that afternoon to talk with and listen to the children and mostly just take a bit of a back seat and observe what really captured their imaginations and interest.
If I could have captured the buzz in my classroom on that first day and bottled it I would have because it was magic. They came bursting through the door after lunch, welly boots on, all set for our first adventure! Standing watching them on the beach that afternoon was a total “lightbulb moment” when you know that you are on the right track.
Some were exploring the rock pools, others were collecting stones and shells, building sandcastles, some had taken down clipboards and were sitting writing and drawing, others were climbing up the sand dunes. But the one thing that they all were was happy. They were encouraging each other, exploring, persevering, demonstrating resilience, communicating with each other, playing creatively … everything. The look on their rosy cheeked faces on the way back to school to get the bus home was priceless.
I think from reading this blog so far you would think that this afternoon was all smooth sailing but this was definitely not the case! Sometimes as a teacher you have to hold your hands up and recognise when something doesn’t work and this happened on that first afternoon too. In class we’re reading the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I had planned that we would end our afternoon by sitting on the beach reading another chapter or two … this would be a wonderful way to end the day … right? WRONG!! TOTAL DISASTER! Lesson learned … when children are enjoying doing what they are already doing, leave them alone!! As much as they love listening to the story in their cosy library corner in class, on the beach they were not interested!!
Since last week we have spoken lots about the direction we want to take this project and the children have come up with so many amazing ideas … I am so impressed and extremely proud of them. We are so excited to share our Teach on the Beach journey with you and hope you enjoy following our progress on this blog over the coming weeks and months!
Miss J Campbell