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Head outdoors

Making more use of outdoor space to stimulate kinaesthetic learning

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 31, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

What we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and do gives us a selection of pathways to learning. At its simplest, this means there are three ways to learn: by listening, seeing and from experience, known as auditory, sensory and kinaesthetic learning. Every child exhibits varying degrees of expertise in each of the differing types of intelligence and, therefore, will respond in a variety of ways to different types of teaching. Research now shows that everyone can become more intelligent in more ways, and by valuing and nurturing abilities other than mathematics and reading, we can open more doors for all children by bolstering their less developed areas.

For many young people, it is not sufficient to acquire knowledge without seeing its relevance to themselves and the world around them. So, they learn better through practical experience and acquire their knowledge and understanding through real-life tasks that stimulate their natural curiosity. 

The children are inspired by working outdoors and we've seen a great improvement in their creativity - Dodford Primary School

However, our western culture, tends to favour verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences at the expense of others, such as physical or kinaesthetic intelligence. Much traditional teaching tends to undervalue the power of sensory and kinaesthetic learning, an imbalance which learning outdoors can effectively address.

Learning kinaesthetically from experience is a powerful way of learning which we can, and should, make more use of. Learning outside the classroom does just that. For those who are sceptical about such theories it remains a fact that young people are intensely curious and will always take the opportunity to explore the world around them if it is offered. So, the potential for learning is maximised if we use the powerful combination of physical, visual and naturalistic ways of learning as well as our linguistic and mathematical intelligence.

One school that fully embraces the concept is independent prep school for boys, Bickley Park. Following a success fuelled, 15% rise in its roll, predominantly concentrated in the pre-prep age range, the school needed to create three new classrooms offering a huge amount of learning space, inside and out.

Patrick Wenham, Bickley Park’s headmaster, firmly believes that boys tend to be kinaesthetic learners and need plenty of space and opportunity for hands-on learning experiences. Sam Patel, the school’s director of school development, wanted a space that was light, airy and modern with a strong set of eco-credentials. He was delighted with the range of eco-friendly options offered by TG Escapes and the school took advantage of nearly all of them. The new nursery block opened by Bickley old boy and BBC presenter Chris Hollins, boasts a sedum roof to reduce rainwater run-off, together with sun pipes which fill the rooms with natural daylight and minimise the use of artificial lighting. All the services and appliances are A+ rated and the building also incorporates solar panels to heat the water.

We were intrigued by TG Escapes' different approach to learning environments and after visiting their other projects we were blown away - Shotton Academy

The end result, according to Mr Wenham, is a fantastic new nursery that aligns very much with the school’s vision to be a world-class preparatory school for boys. He feels that the nursery building has been a fantastic addition to the Pre-Prep site, using a space that was previously occupied by a less attractive school cottage. He reports that children and staff alike love learning and working in the building due to the amount of natural light and space, whilst free flow access to a covered deck is a huge advantage, allowing outdoor learning to take place in all weathers. 

Other customers of TG Escapes, in both the private and public sector and covering the full spectrum of learning ages, report similar experiences. 

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