2 October 2012
Neither does one pedagogy. I have given a few interviews in the last fortnight to a range of media outlets. They have all asked me about the benefits of outdoor learning and play.
Inevitably I find myself trying to redress the perception that learning outside the classroom does not necessarily have any educational outcomes. I hope by now we all know that it most certainly does. I'd like to illustrate this a little...
There's a young chap of 9ish who lives at the end of my road, we'll call him Alfie because I forgot to ask his Mum if I could use him in this blog. Alfie's Dad is a builder.
Alfie would be the first to say that he's not that enthralled about sitting down at a table making sums come out right and trying to get words and letters to arrange themselves in the right order. You see, for Alfie, words and numbers do odd things when they're written down, they sort of turn themselves inside out and bobble around the page quite a lot. (This is not unconnected with Alfie's tendency to bobble around quite a lot himself.)
This makes them jolly hard to control and after a while it become really quite frustrating and tiring.
In Alfie's experience things outside tend to make sense, he has more space to bobble around in, there are fewer sounds bouncing around the walls at him, he can breathe better and he can hold and touch things that don't misbehave in the way that letters and numbers do.
Alfie has a fork lift truck driving qualification and he can lay a pretty decent brick wall. He knows one end of a pig from the other and looks after his own hens. He sells the hen's eggs in units of 20p because this helps him to handle money.
Alfie knows how potatoes grow and why you don't want to eat the green bits, he can skim a concrete surface with the dexterity of a professional and he understands what layers need to go into the foundations of a house and why.
Alfie is a quick and intelligent learner, he is outside every hour he can be cramming his head with new and relevant information. He exhausts the word 'why' by using it all the time to make sense of the world around him. He has an excellent memory. Alfie demands a learning outcome from every question that he asks and every new experience that he chases. Alfie seeks knowledge relentlessly, pursuing it like a runaway dog as hard as he possibly can.
Alfie will probably be able to get a job once he leaves school as the boom in the need for affordable housing will mean that his particular skills are in demand.
Alfie is fortunate in that he has far-seeing and supportive parents.
Sometimes, watching Alfie work I want to pose the following question to our educationalists:
"What exactly are the benefits for Alfie of learning inside the classroom?"
One pedagogy does not fit all and it is time we acknowledged this and started giving all children the right to learn in the spaces that help them to learn the best.