New Experience – Outdoor Mission

Time to take class outside into the real world!

Do you remember those field trips/excursions at school? You felt a tangible sense of excitement and had joyful jitters. You got to escape out of the classroom confines and finally touch the real world..

I do.

I remember them all. They were the sunshine days among the clouds. Why did they stand out so much from my other days at school? One of the reasons is this.

CURIOSITY

A major source of fuel for a child’s learning is curiosity.

From the Science Daily, I sourced information around how Curiosity directly effects the learning experience and retention of memory.

“…the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath, also of UC Davis.”

Matthias J. Gruber, Bernard D. Gelman, Charan Ranganath. 
States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic CircuitNeuron, 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060

Alot of traditional learning environments are almost void of curiosity. A child is told to sit down, follow, listen, stay still, and obey. After awhile the child slips into a dulled down state or forces back with “poor behaviour.” Their engagement level becomes low and they become uninterested. They shut off their (metaphorical) gates for learning, and you are left trying to cram information through the edges..

For me personally, I hated being stuck in a classroom all day. My curiosity was bursting to learn about the real world. To have a chance to experience it up close, not just in books or songs.

“From my experience of working with kids, when you increase the curiosity factor of an activity, the child’s “learning gate” begins to open. Healthy chemicals like dopamine (contributes to concentration) and endorphins (feel good neurotransmitters) are flowing and the child is not only enjoying themselves, they are focused and fully engaged!”
– Mr Jamie

Going on outdoor field trips is like fireworks for a young child’s brain. New neural pathways are being connected and strengthened and this creates a fresh understanding of the world around them as well as bringing a new state of awareness.

“New habits, experiences, practice, and any kind of learning causes neural pathways to rearrange and change.”

Well what about Hong Kong children, they have lots of varied classes right?

Yes, they do have many classes. The list is endless:
Music, sports, gymnastics, martial arts, cooking, drawing, painting, languages, drama, computer coding, STEM, lego, chess, debate classes, … And so many more!

HOWEVER, most of these classes (except for some recreation ones) are typically done inside a learning centre classroom (or box prisons as I call them) Nothing entirely wrong with that. As it takes care of any variables that could go wrong, as well as increasing class numbers ($$$). But I wont go there..
It does provide a “safe environment” of comfortability, but this doesn’t stretch kids social and real life communicational skills. To learn skills that are relevant with the outside world, you have to go outside!

Seeing this could be a great way to engage kids, I began to start creating Outdoor sessions. While working with a few parents, we would take their children downstairs to the park, basketball court, or playground to conduct the last half our class. I would connect kids with their present environment, interact with games in their natural or manmade landscape.
Judging from the positive feedback, I continued. I began to formulate the Mission side of the session. To keep kid’s attention on a topic, we first had to create our mission. So when we are downstairs, the children have a purpose and a plan. This opened up new places to explore, like shopping malls and shops. Why use fake fruit for teaching, when you can experience the real deal up close!
Children also see their teacher up close interacting with locals in the community, and feel confident to try also. This type of modelling effect is quite powerful.
I look forward to further developing these sessions and building support around outdoor learning. It’s time for kids to escape the classroom and rediscover the true essence of learning!
Stay curious!

If you are interested to share your knowledge and collaborate around this topic, please fill the form below.

– Mr Jamie

What is Outdoor Mission?

Outdoor Mission is a community based activity which engages children in everyday environments to solve or complete a mission that has been prepared by the child.

How does the child benefit from this activity?

The Child is self motivated to complete their own mission and often they overcome their own fears to complete it. These may be fears from being away from parents/caregivers, how other’s see them in public, or how to conduct their mission. They are encouraged to lead and direct the mission, and this self responsibility grows their confidence greatly. The child shows initiative and implements their decision making to the task.

Where is Outdoor Mission conducted?

The location is decided depending on the child’s Mission.
If the goal is ‘to make a cake,’ children are asked questions to think about HOW their mission will take place, WHERE do they need to go to solve the mission?
For example: ‘To make a cake‘ the child will need ingredients, the child comes up with a Supermarket as the location.
For example: ‘To help the environment’ the child comes up with multiple locations that can benefit from their help, as well as practicing their logistical skills. WHERE is the best location

Share your thoughts below

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