We’ve all read that today’s students are in dire need of more exercise during school hours. Statistics show that kids are spending only half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Spending time in nature helps decrease children’s aggression, enhance their attention spans and boost classroom performance. That’s why more and more schools are implementing Forest School sessions.
Forest School is a learning approach where classes spend time in nature. It is a long-term process consisting of regular visits (for example, one day a week for a year) to woodland areas. It has been shown to improve children’s confidence, self-esteem and respect for nature – but are students missing out on academics during this time? Not necessarily!
How can you combine academics and class trips to nature?
You can teach a number of subjects while on class trips:
Foreign languages – use the foreign language to name things you see like animals, plants, weather conditions, etc.
Art – gather materials for art projects
Music –make home-made instruments from natural materials
Mathematics – make calculations using data gathered on trips
Science – study the ecosystem and gather materials for experiments
How can mobile learning play a part in Forest School sessions?
By mobile learning in this article, I am referring to the use of a learning platform along with devices such as school PCs and tablets, personal mobile phones, etc. Incorporating such technology can increase the academic impact of Forest School trips by:
- boosting student motivation and engagement before class trips
- enabling communication while on class trips
- allowing students to collaborate more easily
- allowing students to easily capture photos and share them with teachers and classmates
- helping teachers assess and evaluate trips afterwards
An Example of a Forest School lesson:
Topic- Natural dyes
Learning platform- itslearning
Devices- School computers & tablets, personal mobile phones
On a Forest School session with an art class, you can ask students to photograph and collect things that could be used to make natural dyes: leaves, roots, flowers, berries, vegetables, etc. Afterwards you can prepare and test the ingredients by tie dying t-shirts.
Mobile learning can enhance the academic aspect of Forest School trips in many ways. Here are some examples...
Before the trip:
Increase engagement levels by sparking student interest in the topic before the class trip:
- Assess pre-knowledge using online surveys to find out what your students already know about natural dyes. (itslearning Surveys)
- Create an interactive page for students, with links to videos and articles about natural dye ingredients. (itslearning Pages)
- Create a digital assignment with tasks to be completed on the field trip. (itslearning Assignments)
During the trip:
If students have tablets or cell phones with them, teachers can use the itslearning Mobile App to:
- remain accessible while students scatter, in order to answer questions and provide assistance
- remind students of the time and assemble them when necessary
Students can use the app to:
- review the Forest School assignment on itslearning
- refer to the interactive page with information on natural dyes
- communicate, collaborate and find fellow students when separated
After the trip:
- Ask the students to upload the photos they took of possible dye ingredients to a shared class folder (itslearning Folders)
- Have each student start a discussion thread and add the pictures of ingredients they took on their trip. Ask which one they think will make the best natural dye. Have students comment on each other’s predictions. (itslearning Discussions)
- Evaluate the students’ performance during the field trip. (The itslearning’s Custom Activity tool allows you to assess ‘offline’ activities like Forest School sessions.)
- Ask students to summarise the trip in blog posts. Have students comment on each other’s posts. (itslearning Blogs)
And then…have fun testing the natural dyes!
I hope we’ve motivated you to incorporate mobile learning into Forest School trips! Please let us know how it goes!
Posted on Sat, August 15, 2015
by Leslie Ahern