5 Teaching Strategies for Outdoor Educators

and Nature Mentors

1. Art of Questioning

To answer a question we MUST consider it.
By cleverly asking questions we teach children to be more observant of their surroundings. Which leads them to NOTICE and become AWARE of the natural world around them .

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?


2. Place-Based Learning

When children return to the same place day after day, week after week, month after month, the experiences they have in that place become part of their identity. The ecological identity we create through FNS is why we do what we do.

These children become stewards for the natural world in their local communities. Their understanding of how human activity impacts the natural environment is often greater than that of their parents and peers. Having a deep connection to nature shapes who these kids become and who they will be in the world, they are more empathetic, compassionate and intelligent human beings. They are kids who understand the “ripple effect” on a practical level.

3. Play-Based Learning                

“Play is the work of childhood” – Jean Piaget

What is Play?

As defined by FNS “a process that is freely, chose, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas, and interests in their own way for their own reasons.” (Hughes, 2013).

14 Types of Play you may see in FNS:
(reprinted from FNS handbook 2014)

Symbolic Playinvolves children using “symbols, objects, designs or signs” to “represent people, ideas or qualities” (Kilvington & Wood, 2010, p.44)

Exploratory Playis play that “accesses factual information about an environment and engages with the area or thing and, either by manipulation or movement, assesses its properties, possibilities and content” (p.44).

Socio-dramatic Playis an opportunity for children to enact real and potential experiences (p.44). Groups of children often enact personal real-life situations, like bedtime or family holidays, in which they rotate roles of parent and child and deal with difficult siblings.

Dramatic Playin contrast, is an opportunity for children to act out events that are not part of everyday life. These include “scenes from others’ lives or from the television or theatre….or being famous footballers or a band” (p.44)

Social Playincludes “any social or interactive situation which contains an expectation on all parties that they will discuss and abide by certain rules, customs or protocols” (p.45). Almost all play at FNS is social play. In many cases the children all follow the rules they have created together and they can play quite happily this way for an entire session.

Communication Playinvolves “using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play action….singing, debate, poetry (p.45). This is more common in older groups. Also children who are more reserved are more likely to participate in this type of play at FNS.  
Creative Play (inventive play) “is about focused but spontaneous creation with a wide range of materials and tools” (p.45)  
Deep Playis play in which children conquer fears by working through what they perceive to be high risk physical or emotional experiences (p.46)  
Fantasy Playis play that is completely unreal. It is the creation of stories and role-playing games involving superheroes or magic.  
Imaginative Playis play in which “the conventional rules that govern the physical world do not apply, but is based on reality” (p.46) Not only do people and objects take on imaginary roles, but these are constantly in flux – the children regularly discuss and agree upon changes to the scenario. Through the imaginations of children you may find the ground you walk on changes frequently.  
Locomotor Playis active play. Kids play hide and seek, climb trees/logs/rocks, hang from grapevines, walk around gathering materials, make and use pretend (and sometimes real) ziplines, roll down hills on the way to the site, and balance on fallen logs.  
Mastery Playinvolves “taking (and feeling) control of the physical and affective ingredients of the natural environment” (p.46), for example “digging tunnels and holes in earth or sand; changing the course of steams; gaining a new skill, for example, a jump across a river” (p.46).  
Recapitulative Play “displays aspects of human evolutionary history” (p.47). While, at some FNS programs we cannot have fires on site, children will regularly build fires, pretend to light them, and create shelter villages around them.
Rough & Tumble Playinvolves testing physical limits, play-fighting, and chasing. Within certain student-generated safety guidelines, rough and tumble play also has a place at FNS

4. Inquiry-Based Learning

  …creating a culture of observing & listening, both of students and of the natural world, supporting students to do the same.

  …allowing children to make mistakes

  …allowing children to learn by doing

  …learning alongside children

  …giving more time to explore, experience, solve problems, resolve conflicts, and provide answers to questions

5. Story Telling

By sharing the wisdom, stories and teachings of our experiences and the land where we work we help to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and sharing. We are helping to develop a healthy, positive understanding of indigenous in non-indigenous children.

One of the most commonly known Indigenous teaching pedagogy involves story-telling and anecdotes. Traditionally, legends and lore were used in the winter only, and that is still true today of some stories. However, many have been written down and we have a resource of local stories that can be shared with your students.

In many cultures it is a serious taboo to tell the personal story of a story-teller without their permission. We encourage facilitators to tell stories of their own experience to help their students learn.

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