I had a wonderful discussion recently with friend and colleague Ken Finch of Green Hearts. Our conversation meandered about, covering many topics, tricks of the trade, trials and triumphs. Center to the dialogue were terms such as playscape, outdoor classroom, learning landscapes, natural playground, outdoor education, living lab … we may have overlooked a few.
Playscape, outdoor classroom, living lab …
We came to the not so conclusive conclusion that inherent in all these ‘names’ are both opportunities and limitations. Do we limit ourselves and our expectations when we call an area a ‘playground’ or an ‘outdoor classroom’? Is one more important then the other? Can we play AND learn in both these spaces? Does the blend of the 2 together create a truly engaged learner (who may not even realize they are ‘learning’ by doing)? From personal experience (and studies show I am not alone in this), I learn best when I’m truly engaged in my own learning.
These last 3 words are of critical importance in Ken and my conversation. We may learn different ‘things’ in these different landscapes, but overall, we’re learning by doing, creating OUR OWN LEARNING. Not something we’re told or need to memorize for a test, it’s our own learning. A creation we can take personal ownership of and responsibility for. This may even be a shared experience (eg: through collaborative problem solving while building the gnome fort). The point remains that we were actively engaged and involved in creating our learning and understanding through play, exploration, experimentation – which can happen in a playscape, outdoor classroom, learning landscapes, natural playground, outdoor education living lab, no matter their name. Life lessons and learning through play and outdoor exploration need not be mutually exclusive.
So remember to get outside, play, get dirty and have fun—you may be amazed at what you learn!