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Get Out! Taking Learning Outside

When it comes to learning, the content of what we learn is usually emphasized. However, how and where we learn is equally important. As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for new ways to motivate my students to learn, whether it’s including more hands-on activities, adding technology, or changing the space in which we learn. Understanding how our students enjoy learning means we can create meaningful learning experiences that will result in increased motivation, attention, and retention.

With spring temperatures on the rise, we’ve been taking our learning outdoors! My students have enjoyed learning underneath the warmth of the sun and taking their breaks in the community. We’ve done a spring sensory walk to help with poetry writing, we picked up trash around the perimeter of the school for Earth Day, and we went on a birds nest hunt and gathered materials to build our own bird’s nests in science. Recently, the K–2 students took a field trip to North Park Nature Center and rode the city bus down to the Art Institute. Daily, we explore Edgewater by walking to different parks in the neighborhood. An added benefit of venturing into the community is learning and understanding community safety — how to cross the street, how to read road signs, and how to navigate to our destination!

Another benefit of learning outside the classroom is fresh air. Our brains need to be refreshed if we are to learn. Being stuck indoors can sometimes cause us to drift off into our own daydreams or get stuck. Being outside with fresh air can be a very inspirational experience and can nurture our students’ creativity and imagination. For example, when learning about birds nests, seeing the actual nests outdoors was more exciting than seeing still photos. Utilizing all our senses to learn ensures that we are constantly exploring the boundaries of our learning.

Finally, learning outside encourages our students to go for walking breaks to stretch their legs or play on the playground for some added gross motor benefits. It also encourages our students to interact with one another and develop interest in the environment. Bring on the warm temperatures!

Meghan Brtnik

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Meghan was a substitute teacher at an international baccalaureate school in Toronto and at the Latin School of Chicago. She graduated from York University, Toronto, with a M.Ed. at the primary/junior level and completed an additional qualification course in special education. Meghan earned a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario in honors psychology, focusing on the psychological and social foundations in human behavior. In addition, Meghan has worked in a Montessori school, tutored students individually, and lived and worked at an all-girls boarding school.
For fun, Meghan loves traveling, trying out new restaurants, exploring new neighborhoods, swimming, reading, and walking.

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