The importance of deep learning in the Preparatory School

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 Welcome back, and welcome to an amazing Term 4. It is fantastic to see all our girls and boys back from the break and ready for the term ahead.

Wow! So many of you “crushed” the 48-hour challenge on being outside in nature. I have been inundated with journals, logs, timesheets and picture diaries detailing time spent in nature. We have some real adventurers out there! My confession – besides seven days in Canberra and Sydney with our Year 6 students I did not spend 48 hours outside when I returned to Perth. It’s easy to blame the weather, a warm couch and some amazing food. Luckily, we are right in the middle of Outdoor October and I still have time! So do you and yours.

As a Preparatory School we are focused on the deep learning that happens in nature; from our Kindy/Pre-Primary’s discovery walks near the river to our Year 5s building shelters near the duck pond. This resonated with me as I read with great interested Bethany Hiatt’s article in the Weekend West(October 1-2).

For several hours they explore, fossick for insects, collect plants and climb trees.

If it’s raining, they wear wet weather gear and build themselves a tarpaulin shelter. And even though they are not filling in worksheets, they are learning the whole time.

Claire Warden, an international expert on teaching children outdoors, who is visiting Perth this week, said “nature pedagogy” was a method of teaching that linked student’s classroom learning with their outdoor experiences beyond those four walls.

“It’s not just nature play, though it gets tagged as that, it’s more than that.”

She said learning to cope with risks found in wilderness spaces was an important part of nature pedagogy.

Without some element of risk, children became fearful of pushing their own boundaries.

“If you don’t have physical risk there is greater emotional risk,” she said. “You need that physical challenge in your life to understand what your body is capable of.”

“If you’re scared of your own shadow, you don’t try new things and you don’t have that inner emotional resilience to push yourself in any way.”

“We’ve become so risk averse in our work, that we’re actually wrapping children in cotton wool and then they’re so fearful of pushing their own boundaries, whether that be intellectual, physical or emotional, that they sit in a very safe place. That means they’re not optimising their potential.”

Ms Warden said it was important to include children in the process of assessing their own level of risk, such as gauging the thickness of a tree branch before putting their weight on it.

Children were also taught to use real tools from a very young age and even to light fires, helping to empower them and develop their confidence.

“We never use matches, because that’s too dangerous, what we would do is always use a flint,” she said. “That means the two-year-olds would have to persevere to get any form of spark.”

“What schools are finding is that this is not an ‘add-on’, it is a means of actualizing the WA Curriculum, particularly in the early years.” said AISWA deputy director Ron Gorman.

“It’s really about connecting young people’s learning beyond the classroom.

“It’s not a back to the bush thing; it’s a carefully thought out way of engaging learners and extending their thinking.”

Education using our natural environment. It’s amazing how the simple truths of our past are again relevant and necessary for our students today.

Enjoy the outdoors!

CLARK WIGHT
HEAD OF PREPARATORY SCHOOL

12 Oct 2016 - 4:04 PM
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