Get Outside and Do Some Learnin'!

This week, I have been collaborating with the brilliant Molly (@mimmerr)! We have come up with a list of six fantastic activities that you can do with your children either while keeping them home from school, or after school, or even at school if you're a teacher.


To get the benefit of the whole piece, you'll need to take a trip over to her blog. Trust me, it'll be worth it. While you're there, leave a comment saying that I sent you, it'll be really helpful. So, without further ado...




The GREAT Outdoors...


Upgrade your chalk work 

This is one of Molly's but it was such a good idea, I had to jump on it as well. Pop over to her blog, read what she has to say, then pop back here. Or, hey, just open up another tab. That's probably easier.


Not only is this fun and creative, it’s also a super-helpful way to introduce Year 5 and 6 anatomy.  It’s always fun to see where the children think their lungs and heart go!  It’s a great way to get everyone involved as you’ll need several outlines (digestive system, circulatory system, skeletal system…).  Don’t worry about being an expert yourself, all the information can be found here (there’s also a really fun game to teach the skeletal system here).


Use the daily stroll as a maths activity

The lockdown has restricted many things, it’s true, but it’s also given many of us a reason to deliberately go out and about as a family.  This daily sojourn is perfect for learning at all levels.  For younger children (Reception age), have them read out any numbers they see on road signs, houses, car number plates.  To make it more challenging, tell them that each number they say has to be larger or smaller than the previous one.  


For slightly older children (Key Stage 1), you can practise rapid arithmetic skills in a similar way.  You can have them calculate the digit sum of any numbers they see.  For example, if you walk past my house, you’ll see that it’s number 29 on the street.  Challenge your child to add up 2 and 9; to subtract 2 from 9; to multiply 2 and 9; to spell the words, two and nine.  All of these are key skills in KS1!


Have children in Key Stage 2?  Not a problem!  In fact, this is even more fun.  You can use the above game but ask for the biggest smallest number that can be made with the digits.  You can ask them to make a fraction (2/9, 9/2, which they can then simplify to 4 ½, then, depending on the age, can they give you that answer as a decimal?).  You can challenge them to create a maths problem using those numbers.  They could add or subtract numbers of next-door neighbours, or over-the-road neighbours.  If they’re in Upper Key Stage 2, they could try to find the mean average of the next three house numbers (they might need some paper for that one!).  House numbers not challenging enough?  Use car number plates!  There are numbers absolutely everywhere and they can all be used to practise some on-the-go arithmetic.


There’s also scope to involve other areas of Maths. You could ask your children to count how many shapes they can see, or the different types of angles. After you return home, you could construct tables and graphs to present what they have found.


Use the daily stroll as an English activity.


How often do you walk down the street with your eyes shut?  Metaphorically, I mean.  You’ll be surprised how many strange things there are even on a familiar, daily stroll.  Does the tarmac on the road suddenly change colour or texture?  Do the houses all look eerily similar?  Is there a weed growing out of the concrete?  Any of these things can be a great story starter and your child’s brain is hungry for those stories!  Begin with a question and challenge them to come up with the most creative answer.  You might need to help them get started:


Why has the road changed? Because the street can actually split in two, like a trap door opening, and a rocket ship comes up from the ground.  The neighbours have been planning a trip to space and the only thing they need to finish the rocket is...

Have you ever noticed how all the houses look the same?  I wonder why… is it because these houses weren’t built; they were grown from a seed!!!  If you look carefully, you can even see some tiny buds.  What will the flower look like?  And how big will the bees need to be to pollinate them?


You get the idea.  The key is to ‘yes… and’ the tale.  That is, accept whatever your child says, then build on it.  No idea is too far-fetched!  When you get home, they can draw a picture or a story map (they’ll know what that is).


This will work for older children as well, but they might find it more fun to make sentences using the letters from car number plates.  For example, if you see UK96 LXR, you could either use each letter as the start of a word or see if you can make words out of the letters (even using text-speak).  The key here is to find inspiration, so it doesn’t really matter how they use the letters, it just matters that they use them.




Question Everything!

I’ve always encouraged some healthy cynicism in the classroom and love it when children challenge given paradigms, so why not use your time outside to explore some of these ideas?  Let me explain because I’m almost losing myself here…


Take measurement.  In the UK, we use the metric system and your children will be familiar with meters, centimetres and millimetres.  But have they ever asked why?  Have you?  Fifty years ago, we used imperial measurement (feet and inches), so why did we change?  Was it for the better?  Was it just to fit in?  How come the metric system is also known as the Systeme International and used as a standard in the scientific community around the world?  These questions might be too big to answer, but remember that not every question has to be answered; discussing them is important too.


Anyway, I said that you could do something while out and about.  I’m getting to it.  Challenge your child to come up with a brand new system of measuring length.  They will need to come up with a name for it and a way of measuring it.  They might use the length of their foot.  This is excellent.  Have them measure out the distance between lamp posts (or anything fixed).  They tell you it’s 20 my-feet long.  Great!  Now you measure out 20 my-feet, using the measurement standard set by your child and ask them why you and they have measured out different lengths (I doubt they will be specific enough to state that the measurement is exclusive to their feet).  Come up with suggestions to refine the measurement as a standard so that anyone can use it and always get the same result.  


The point here is not to make your child feel like they have done something wrong - far from it.  It’s to encourage the discussion about the reasons behind the maths that we use (in this case, measurement).  It is much more productive for everyone when an agreed system is in place.


You can extend the discussion to include the history of imperial measurement (was the length of a foot really down to Henry VIII’s feet?); the reason we use Arabic numerals instead of Roman; why the alphabet is so different in Russian or Sanskrit.  Again, the object here is not to answer the questions definitively, although it would make for a very interesting project.  The point is to engage in discussion and encourage the exploration and questioning of ideas.  This is often not possible in school because of time restraints but it is one of the most important things you can teach your child: how to have the confidence and tact to question authorities while also being willing to be questioned yourself.  There is a phrase for it: having strong views that are weakly held.  It’s priceless.


Want more?


Of course, you do! Head on over to mimmer.co.uk and learn all about:


Journey sticks, mud kitchens and upgrading your chalk work (this last one is such a good idea, I had to jump on it as well. Not only is this fun and creative, it’s also a super-helpful way to introduce Year 5 and 6 anatomy.  It’s always fun to see where the children think their lungs and heart go!  It’s a great way to get everyone involved as you’ll need several outlines (digestive system, circulatory system, skeletal system…).  Don’t worry about being an expert yourself, all the information can be found here (there’s also a really fun game to teach the skeletal system here). Pop over to her blog, read what she has to say, then pop back here. Or, hey, just open up another tab. That's probably easier).




Whether you've sent your children back to almost-normal-school, or are enjoying their company at home a little longer, these six activities will keep their hungry little minds active and help stave off that terrifying call of "I'm bored!" Plus, since they're fairly covertly educational, they'll work just as well during the summer holidays (which will be along soon)!


Before I go, I just want to say a massive thank-you to Molly for suggesting this collaboration. One of my favourite things about education is meeting new people and learning from them. She has way for followers than me, so I feel a bit silly recommending that you check her out on Twitter, but on the off-chance that you've not had the pleasure, give her a like and a follow.


Thanks also to you for reading to the end! I'll be back with a solo post next week so until then, stay happy!


Carl Headley-Morris


@Mr_M_Musings mrmteacher@gmail.com

bit.ly/carlslearningplace www.svreducation.co.uk


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