Workshop Japan Tour Report
Play & Learn Outdoor Classroom : Outdoor Education in Sweden
Learning occurs not only inside the classroom, also outdoors.
In Swedish nature school, school kids learn English, Math, History, and any other subject in the outdoor environment. Nature can be learning materials for children instead of using textbook. They can learn by themselves or with their friends using own senses and physical activity. Learning by playing, is natural way of learning and it happens easily when they go out.
This is a report from workshop tour that was held all around Japan, learning about outdoor education and experience-based learning for school children from Swedish Nature school.
We, Learning Outdoor has translated a Swedish textbook of outdoor learning; "Play and Learn Mathematics Outdoors" into Japanese and published in June 2018. This book is written for teachers and educators as their teaching text, a number of activities of outdoor Mathematics that is joyful and practical for children's learning are introduced. All the activities are practices from several nature schools in Sweden, that are targeting for small children from 2 to 8 years-old.
Related to this publication of Japanese edition, we invite Mats and Robert from Nynäshamn Nature school and hold a series of workshop to introduce Swedish outdoor education in several places all around Japan. In 20 days of their Japan tour, we traveled around from Hokkaido in the north, stopping at Tokyo, Chiba, Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, Kyoto, and all the way down to Nagasaki in the south. We had 10 workshops, 7 places of visitation, in total more than 500 participants we could met and talked to them. In the workshop, not only presentation inside but also we take all the participants outside to give them an experiences of outdoor activities from the book.
Lecturer from Nynäshamns Nature School
Mats Wejdmark (Left)
Robert Lättman-Masch (Right)
Last year 2017, we also had a series of workshop in several places in Japan inviting same guests from Sweden. But in this time it would be more advanced step, having workshops as practical courses for the teachers, networking with outdoor educator and parents, in order to promote outdoor education to adapt into Japanese schools and educational curriculum. Referring from Swedish educational system that have outdoor teaching within school curricula in cooperation with national / local government, we discussed with many participants shifting education from cramming toward children-centered learning.
- Ichihara, Chiba : Mori no Youchi-sha (Workshop)
- Tokyo : Youth Education and National Olympics Memorial Center (Lecturer Meeting)
- Nagano City : Nagano Prefectural Library (Workshop and Meeting)
- Ichinomiya, Aichi : Ono Gokuraku-ji Park (Workshop)
- Mino, Gifu : Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture (1 day workshop)
- Isahaya, Nagasaki : National Isahaya Youth Outdoor Learning Center (1 day workshop)
- Sapporo, Hokkaido : Sapporo Youth Outdoor Learning Center (2 days workshop)
- Kizugawa, Kyoto : East Community Center (Workshop)
- Kyoto City : Yokai SOHO (Workshop)
- Ministry of Environment of Japan, Environmental Education Office
- University of Nagano, Department of Child Development and Education
- Vice Governor of Nagano Prefecture
- Tobetsu Yume no Kuni Kindergarten
- Sapporo, Satsunae no Mori Kindergarten and Nursery School
- Tobetu, Nishi-Tobetsu Elementary School (Lecture of outdoor English for pupil)
- Kizugawa, Saganakadai Elementary School
Presentation : Nynäshamn nature school and outdoor education in Sweden
Nynäshamn nature school is managed by the municipality of Nynäshamn, that is located in 50km south from the capital, Stockholm. There are 90 nature schools as well all over Sweden that is administrated by local government. These nature schools doesn't have the pupils, they accept children from many schools within local community. School classes visit nature school in several times a year as their outdoor learning day, children have experiences in outside nature that is connected with subjects all the time such as Math, English, History, Swedish language, art, science, technology, and so on. Therefore, outdoor activities in nature school is based on the national curriculum. Those program is designed by nature school in cooperation with teachers, and always connected to children's learning, not just to play, by integration with preparation and reflection inside of the classroom.
Nature school is not just the place nor facility, it is a method of learning. Not necessary to always go outside, it is important to integrate outdoor learning with inside the classroom. Pupils can establish the learning by their own way, by testing theories and knowledges they have got from the classroom in outdoor environment.
Nature provides many kinds of learning materials, in natural way. It is important to give the children opportunity to touch with nature in a way to stimulates their lust for learning. Play and enjoyment using all the senses and whole body stimulates children's curiosity for learning. Learning outdoors is the best way to be active, cooperate with others, taking the initiatives by their own way. And it stimulate the imagination and creativity, concentration and motivation for learning, problem-solving, self-esteem and physical and mental health. To come out from the classroom and change the learning environment, children can find different ways of learning that is suitable for each kids. In other words, it means that ensure the equality and equity for children's learning. In this way, nature school provides not only theory and knowledge of practical subject like Math or English, but also learning for children to understand who they are, and how they are involved in surrounding world.
Mathematics is so much more than figures and numbers on a piece of paper, it is also the awareness and understanding of oneself and surrounding world, by comparing and grouping with Mathematical language.
Researches about benefit of outdoor education
There have been so many studies researched about how important outdoor education is for children's development and learning.
- The group of children who have spent lots of time in outside are more engaged, cooperate better, and learning more compared with the other group not often go outdoors. (1)
- Outdoor education leads to a number of positive effect for learning, such as improve concentration and memory, motivation for studies, and self-confidence. (2)
There are some other studies that proves how nature can affect to our body scientifically.
- It reduces stress hormone and improve recovery, and strengthens the immune defense system.
(1) Space and Place, Emilia Fägerstam, 2012
(2) Teaching with the Sky as a Ceiling, Johan Faskunger, Anders Szczepanski, Petter Åkerblom, 2018 (http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-151717)
Outdoor Activities : Mathematics
Arranging the Line : The language of Mathematics
1) Everyone fetches one nature material whatever they like.
2) Stands in a line according to the size (biggest to smallest), length (longest to shortest), weight (heaviest to lightest), and age (oldest to youngest) of the materials.
3) What does "long" or "small" means? Can you measure it by length or
volume? Let's think and discuss each other.
To use mathematical comparison words and to inspire thinking about what and how to measure to get a fair comparison
White Cloth : Grouping in different ways
1) Put the nature materials which you took at previous activity on the white cloth and sort out to several groups.
2) Think about what types of grouping you can create (e.g. species, color) depends on the numbers of white cloth.
To recognize the differences and similarities in different ways
Make geometrical shapes with string
Become a squirrel and play with math
Measure the angle of tree branches
1 meter rope : Sense of 1-meter
Try the various assignments in pairs with a 1-meter-rope.
- Find something as long as the rope
- Find a tree as thick as 1-meter
- How many cones (or your steps) you can put in 1-meter?
- Measure each one's height by using the rope
- Make triangle and square shape by the rope
- How high can you jump? Measure with the rope.
Based on the rope that is 1-meter long, to get a feeling of length and distance in a real object
Little Finger : Scale
1) Each group gets a stick that is going to be corresponding to the little finger of one kids in a group.
2) Build models of whole body with nature materials in different scales depending on the length of the stick.
To practice scales and proportions, to use the mathematical terms (e.g. 1:2, 1:3) and to make estimations.
Outdoor Activities : English
1) Prepare the white cloth with the grids of A-Z letters.
2) Each groups tries to collect natural items and fill in all the grids by its first letter.
Alternatively : Fill in by the first letters of nouns, adjectives, species names, fantasy names, and make extra points for synonyms and rhyme.
To learn about the letters of alphabet, and how it sounds and pronounce.
1) Put a numbers of alphabet cards on the ground at a distance from the children.
2) Each groups stand in a line and run at the same time to fetch a card as relay. When a kids comes back, next one in the group starts to run. Collect many letters of alphabet within a group.
3) Using the cards they get, create two different names of something that is related to the place (e.g. Fantasy creatures, headmasters of the school, whatever), it could be a good and bad one, just create new names of them.
4) Find acrostic adjectives that describe who they are, using every letters of their name.
5) Each groups tell the story of what they create to the other.
It is important that children already have learned some adjectives in advance in the classroom.
In advanced way, let children to make their body with nature items, take picture and make their story in the classroom.
Create the creature's name in fantasy
Outdoor activity in the shrine in Kyoto
1) Prepare the list of many English words of verb.
2) Each groups stand in a line. First one select a verb and do charade as what it does mean, pronouncing the word at the same time. (e.g. walk, run, stride, sneak...)
3) Others follow the reader to do charade and speak up.
Doing the Verbs
To learn and remember the English words using whole body with having fun in a group.
Importance of reflection afterwards
Not just having fun in outdoor experience, it is important to have reflection afterwards in order to lead for learning. In Nynäshamn nature school, they have a time for reflection after the outdoor activities in a way of OPA ;
1) One : Look back what you have done and learned in your mind, without speaking. 2) Pairs : Talk in pairs what you thought. 3) All : Share it with everyone
Comments from the participants in reflection
- I was into the activity while I was doing. It is easy to get a sense of anything for learning using whole body.
- There is no correct answer determined. To find my own answer is fun.
- It's good that communication is always contained in each activities. Studying in classroom is lonely, but we can find friends in outside.
- Children can learn comprehensively with various knowledges and theories from the classroom. It leads to discover the new ways of understanding in different aspects and broaden the range of activity.
- Any items and situations could be the materials for learning in outdoor environment. We can discover something with an imagination, that are never found inside the classroom.
- In the classroom teacher teaches same answer, but in outside nature teaches differences and diversity.
Comments from Mats and Robert
- Each child has their own thoughts and answers, and it's not always same as teacher's. It is important to remember that learning is always children-centered in outdoor activity. They learn by themselves. But sometimes leader should give them an advice if they are facing problem, in order to facilitate them to reach a consensus by discussion within the group. Leader has to be always watching how they react and support their learning.
- It is important to have preparation and reflection, not just have a time outdoors, and lead outdoor experiences to establishment of learning. School teacher should prepare well before they take children to the nature school, and motivate them as "now it's time for learning" in outdoor activity. And after coming back to the classroom, teacher should ask children to reflect what they have learned, what they could do and could not do, and why it causes, and so on. We give teachers the list of questions to ask for pupils and let them reflect well in the classroom.
During this tour, we visit the Ministry of Environment of Japan, Prefecture Office in Nagano, and University of Nagano. We introduced Swedish nature school and their roles for administrations, and discussed the possibilities to promote outdoor education in Japan.
Environmental Education Office,
Ministry of Environment
Meeting with Vice Governor of Nagano Prefecture
Department of Child Development and Education, the University of Nagano,
Excel School Exchange Project
Another guests from Excel school in Leksand, Sweden, Gittan and Siv also joined in the middle of our tour. Leksand has sister-city relations with our hometown, Tobetsu, Hokkaido and our organization TEC started up the exchange project with some teachers and headmasters of preschool and administrators in Leksand, in order to make connections among the schools, teachers and children in a grass-rooted way between Tobetsu and Leksand.
Excel school is a part of our exchange, and those two teachers visited around some schools and preschools in Tobetsu, Sapporo, and Kyoto, and introduced about Sweden and their school life for Japanese pupils, had experiences of calligraphy class and lunch time together with them. After the tour in Japan, this international exchange is already started as sending letters each by each school kids.
Let's do Swedish folk dance together
Gittan, Siv and their host families
Outdoor English @ Nishi-Tobetsu Elementary School
Mats demonstrate to have a course of Outdoor English for 5th grade kids in Nishi-Tobetsu elementary school. They experienced some activities such as Secret Bag, ABC-Cloth, Moving Charede using whole body and all the senses. They seemed to enjoy playing and learning within the groups. Even in the ordinary school yard, flat and paved ground with only a few natural materials, everyone could find some stones, leafs, and stick, and it's enough for outdoor education.
Look back the whole tour
For 20 days of the tour, we travelled around all over Japan and met more that 500 participants in total. Thank you for your joining and hosting the workshop. Now it's just started to spread the ideas of outdoor teaching and learning.
I have heard many voices of positive prospect for shifting the learning environment from inside the classroom into outdoor. Especially from parents and mothers, I felt their powerful energy to make some changes considering their own kids' learning and growth. It surely encourage us to support raising children's will for life-long learning together with them.
What we are talking with Mats in order to spread the ideas of Swedish outdoor education is that these activities in this Math book have to be open for everyone, to be used freely in any teaching occasions, and not try to arrange the qualification system only for limid trainers. These are just some examples which have been practiced at nature schools in Sweden, and they even have recreated each activities step by step for the better outdoor learning. As it will never be completed, you can come and join our network in the chain of change, and we would like to keep trying together with you. We need your help to share your practices, new ideas, and ambition for education with us. We would like to keep creating children's active and delightful learning, aiming towards their sustainable future.
For our next step, we will introduce this method of learning into schools and preschools, have courses for teachers, as well as practice outdoors together with parents.
Let's start fun days outdoors with your children!
Director of Tobetsu Ecological Community
December 2018 / Text & Design : Kazane Yamamoto