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Face Down in the Cool Grass!

Outdoor Classroom Day is a joy in a school like ours. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful trees and share our campus with local wildlife like possums, bearded dragons, koalas, ducks and magpies!

Redlands District Special School is the only specialist school for students with disabilities in the Redlands area, we have students from the Early Years all the way up to Grade 12. Our students have intellectual disabilities and a high percentage of students have additional impairments such as autism, physical or sensory impairments.

Meet Dan, The Teacher

I have been teaching for seven years (mostly in the UK) and working with Special Needs Students in one capacity or another for thirteen years. I came to Redlands District Special School in 2017 and began teaching Junior Secondary. This year I have seven students with a range of abilities from Prep level to Year 2, who are in Grades 7-9. In the UK I had frequently taken part in Forest Schools training and running the programs, which were great fun, but a lot muddier! I'll never forget den building in the forest with Year 5 surrounded by mist. The impending rain really made those dens vital!

Discovering Outdoor Classroom Day

I first became aware of Nature Play QLD earlier this year through the Mud World event, to which I took my six year old daughter (who absolutely loved it and was covered head to toes in mud!). After following the page on Facebook, I discovered Outdoor Classroom Day and decided to take our Maths lesson outside! Just next to our classroom, we found some shady grass and settled down. It was a beautiful day and several of my students really enjoyed the sensory elements of being in the outdoors. There was a lot of lounging around in the cool grass!

One of the things I enjoy about outdoor teaching is the chance for students to move around freely in a large area. I really enjoy the short tasks, going and finding and coming back!

The Math's Lesson

On this occasion, I was teaching measurement. The first thing we did was gather up ten sticks each. Some of my students are working on counting with 1:1 correspondence, and gathering up big, physical objects that are fun to touch was a really effective way to work on that skill. Once we all had a range of sticks, the students were able to line them up and place them in height order. After we'd completed this, the students were ready to come back into the shade and have a chat about the next activity. I found returning to our little "base" under the trees was an effective way to make sure we were all on task.

Next up, we created shapes, houses, animals and patterns from sticks, bark and leaves, and the students measured them with their hands, writing the non-standard measurement in chalk. We compared and talked about whose was longest and whose was shortest. Another activity involved partner work, drawing around shadows of each person and comparing them. Once they had the swing of it, I extended everyone with an activity where they had to find a stick exactly 12cm long, or one 26cm long. They all really enjoyed the frustrating challenge, and resisted the urge to break sticks to get the right lengths!

We also enjoyed the last short, time sensitive activity where everyone had to find the longest leaf they could. They all thought this was great fun and we got to find a really big range of different leaves. My class are very energetic and need a lot of high interest activities to keep them busy. Outdoor Classroom Day was a massive hit with them and they were focused and engaged for the entire lesson. I can see us making this a regular part of our daily routine.

In my experience, basically anything can be turned into an outdoor experience and the enthusiasm in my students was obvious!

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