Empty Classroom Day: Inspiration for teachers

Date Posted: 09/07/2015

Empty Classroom Day

Pictured: Getting muddy as part of Empty Classroom Day.

Empty Classroom Day took place recently as a way of celebrating and promoting the benefits of students learning outside the classroom. Alyssa Lim reports on the day’s activities and offers inspiration to teachers planning LOtC sessions.

Empty Classroom Day, created by London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF), began four years ago with 100 schools taking part. Since then it has continued to expand and 650 schools participated across the world this year. The concept is simple: schools sign up to say that part, or all, of a school day will be spent outdoors.

Empty Classroom coordinator, Chris Robson, explained “It’s great because it is something that all schools can get involved in and it can be as small or as big as you make it. I think it can also help those students who might not thrive in the classroom and it makes for a really memorable learning experience.”

Pond dipping to bush walking

The activities that schools choose to take part in are as varied as the locations of the schools. This year schools in Australia, Brazil, Pakistan and Malaysia took part, as well as classes up and down the UK. Activities included an assembly, storytelling and pond dipping, whilst some schools also took the opportunity to use the day to kickstart a community project, visit a farm or beach, or explore activities organised by partners of Empty Classroom Day, such as the Natural History Museum, London or London Zoo. Schools in Australia, meanwhile, used the day to go bushwalking.

Year 5 students from Ashwood Park and Belle Vue primary schools in Stourbridge joined together to take part in Art, Maths and Geography-based activities. Their Empty Classroom Day began in the woodland surrounding the two schools where pupils collected materials to make natural art in the style of Andy Goldsworthy, the British sculptor who produces land art in natural and urban settings.

This activity was combined with Maths-linked tasks based on the girth and height of trees as well map work, a compass challenge and a picnic lunch at King George V Park. Their day was supported by Wildgoose Educational who supplied compasses, maps and tape measures for the students to use.

Old Buckenham Community Primary School in Norfolk, meanwhile, used the day to work together in mixed year group teams to complete tree maintenance on the school field. Other activities included leaf collecting, making bird feeders, barefoot painting and a barbecue and campfire.

Pictured: Students taking part in Empty Classroom Day.

Chris Robson stressed that whilst Empty Classroom Day was an opportunity for schools to take part in the growing initiative, learning outside the classroom should not be restricted to just the one day: “Empty Classroom Day is a celebration of learning outside aimed at encouraging schools to take part and go outdoors. It’s not just one day, but it’s a focal point from which more opportunities can hopefully come from.”

Organisers of Empty Classroom Day this year held a series of workshops in the build up to the day to offer ideas and activities for teachers and students. Next year’s day is hoped to be bigger again with more schools taking part and discovering the benefits of outdoor learning.

For more information and for ideas for learning outside the classroom visit www.emptyclassroomday.com.

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