Why would we put seeds in a grow-bag and just hope for the best?

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Learning outside the classroom (LOtC).

Chilrden in a Solardome glasshouseBack in 1943, Julian Smith impressed the importance of learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) on the Education Forum saying, “that which ought and can be best taught inside the classroom should there be taught, and that which can be best learned through experience dealing directly with native materials and real life situations should there be learned.”

I can vouch for that. I’ve learnt a huge amount about the education sector from my job helping schools enhance their pupils’ outdoor learning opportunities, but my real knowledge of the curriculum, and what’s more life in general, has come from the hands-on opportunities and real-life experiences presented by my eight-year-old daughter. I couldn’t learn half as much from a book or website.

OFSTED tells us that when planned and implemented well, LOtC contributes significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development. But why? Research shows that education is more than the acquisition of knowledge and so it’s not just about what we learn, but how we learn. The Government’s LOtC manifesto reports that teachers have been exploring this ‘how to learn’ element in order to raise achievement. What we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and do gives us six pathways to learning and opportunities to re-engage learners with the world as they would actually experience it.

pumpkinsAs well as helping schools create ‘living classrooms’ with our Solardome® glasshouses, I’m passionate about providing my daughter with as many of these ‘experiential’ learning opportunities as possible to supplement her classroom-based learning. I welcomed the news that gardening could be taught to key stage 1-3 pupils from September 2014 because so many children don’t have the opportunity to see anything ‘green’. As a single-parent family, we’re certainly not affluent and don’t have a huge amount of time, but earlier this year we embarked on a project to produce our own Halloween pumpkins. Although the crop has been a bit paltry, our horticultural journey yielded countless fantastic experiences and learning opportunities. As well as enhancing my daughter’s scientific understanding of the growing process, it’s also developed her life skills. Things like tenacity, commitment, motivation and focus, for example. She’s learnt new words, made up pumpkin-based stories and been out measuring and drawing them. It’s given her an appreciation that food doesn’t just land on her plate.

It got me wondering; we wouldn’t just plant some pumpkin seeds in a growbag and hope for the best, so why do we sometimes do that with children’s education? We need to embrace the environment around us, and there’s a world outside our windows rich with diverse nurturing opportunities.


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