Bear with me, this is a lot of information- but hopefully interesting and supportive.
In July 2020 a number of educational leaders got together to brainstorm alternatives to educational system solutions that just did not seem to be the proper answer to the needs of students and children in this time of worries and crisis. After hours of intense collaboration and creative outpouring, ideas, and new approaches were developed.
Let’s face it, to keep students 8 hours in their desks, with recess canceled and lunch in the same location, with social distancing, and direct instruction seems torturous, inhumane, and highly ineffective. Members of the creative team were passionate about offering different solutions than the current system offers. New Trails Learning System (GER/US), Frankfurt International School (GER), Mammutschule (GER), Evans International Colorado (US), Koeln Sporthochschule (GER), Hof Berkhoff (GER), Manor Park School England (UK), and Move the Mind England (UK) all send representatives to discuss possibilities. We would love to share the thoughts and resources that were discussed and shared and hope to reach many parents, educators, and areas where people learn to encourage to implement positive changes in times of need.
For everybody interested to make it to the end, I decided to leave the best for last and keep the ‘hands-on’ concrete ideas until the end. Let us start with the question every leadership, administration, and an investor would want to have answers to- what evidence do we have that Movement Method work? Well, there are many anecdotal stories, testimonies on the NTLS.co website (click here to see more: Testimonials)
But what about data and statistics that is oh so essential for policymaking and decision making? We are getting there! Since this is all relatively new in the school system, obviously time is against longitudinal studies and a wealth of collected data points. However, a recent study, not yet published, showed immense positive results in various areas of student improvement and teacher job satisfaction- more detail to come when it is published later this year.
With the evidence of effectiveness, quality, the next question is how do we allow more folks to have access and be informed?
If you are reading this and have interested parties, please use what we offer here and share.
There are various scenarios in these times of uncertainty.
- Schools open with full capacity but social distancing regulations
- Schools open at 50% capacity and it’s a hybrid system where half attends in class/ half at home (switching)
- Schools are closed and schooling happens at home
We tried to think through ideas for all scenarios- what we know and want to avoid is kids with too much screen time, too little movement, and hardly any intrinsic motivation with no connection to nature. We know that is the most unhealthy ineffective environment we could possibly expose them to.
Problems: Working at 50% capacity or trying to do social distancing in limited classroom space
What if we dream big- what if we use public spaces like Eden- The Eden Project, an educational charity, connects each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future; the project’s purpose is to demonstrate the importance of plants to people and to promote sustainable use of plant resources (The Eden Project)
, Zoos, museums, working farms, etc. who are also struggling to get enough visitors and revenue, and collaborate to make the outdoor learning spaces for 50% of the students with educators from the school but supported by staff on-site- while the other half of the class stays in the school building- same objectives and academic standards- different ways of learning. The teams switch off so everybody gets exposure to the same learning.
Of course, there are always objections and realistic hurdles:
- Staffing- can we use assisting staff/ helpers/ student teachers (work and collaborate with universities) to assist going to the outdoor learning? Can we instruct per zoom meeting combining classroom instruction and outdoor learning and then have hands-on activities adapted to location? New times- new rules should be flexible enough to allow educated adults and background checked personally to accompany children- maybe paid substitutes
- Finance- stimulus money and COVID money- plus grants for innovative projects and possibly asking banks, entrepreneurs, sponsors to support; also curriculum funds- instead of yet another canned curriculum invest in the real future of the students; Emotional health is supported through this and possibly prevention of stress and depression- health and fitness grants
- Transportation: reroute already existing busses- less pick up because of limited sports events; Can we allow carpooling for interested parents
- Standardized Curriculum: Easy, Movement Method training provides the guidelines on how to make any lesson movement-based and nature connected- train the staff
- Teacher training/time/funds: use professional development money to allow for training; build the training into teacher education programs and/or teacher induction programs
What if we dream big: what if every learner plants trees? Yes, we do take our kiddos out sometimes, but their main time is spent in a classroom- what if we had a couple of trees or however many you can fit in the classroom? For a 5th grade, that might be a couple of pines the students have to care for and eventually learn economics how much it costs to keep them alive and well, and eventually sell them at a silent auction as Christmas trees- parents can’t afford it, no problem, contact local businesses and build a relationship that way- great to cover economic standards (Rupert Isaacson)
What if you have no room but you know kids love to read under trees- no problem, leave the trees on rolly carts for folks to move in and out, and create a mini-forest in minutes without wasting space permanently (Martina Luhrmann).
Jen Tatham in England is planning to encourage educators to at least plant 21 trees using them for classroom activities.
Why are we so persistent about planting trees? The research showed how nature helped many folks during this crisis. The outdoor helped with anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. We all know, our environment is struggling to keep up with the pace of humans, for the next generation to care and change things for the better, we have to start now. What better place to start then schools where most of our leaders work and our new generation is learning to lead and make decisions. The outdoor learning environment also supports this mission- it is a win-win for everybody! What if we could change learning spaces into this?
Nicole Gillard and Jen Davis with Move the Mind in England already allow groups of students to come out and learn in such an environment Move the Mind with horses. Jen Davis has a Movement Method based classroom that has fantastic ideas at Pathways Outdoors. The collaboration between educational facilities and outdoor learning spaces seems a no brainer.
- Use the mask rule to your advantage: teach with mask designs; have students make their own masks; do a market study on stocks for masks (economy standards) R. Isaacson
- If you end up having students sit in desks- build an obstacle course to get to you to hand in papers and such (trampolines, five push up station, etc. be creative) M. Luhrmann
- Dots on the playground where kids have their ‘own island to be out and safe with social distance and when a swing or play area is free they get to go- canceling recess is not an option
- Use outdoor spaces to teach- safely separated parking spots can also be used to do chalk teaching, sidewalks to balance, and empty green spaces to build a classroom
We will place some resources and concrete lesson ideas on our website as well, to begin with, check out the support below.
- Goosechase can be a treasure hunt that incorporates technology and moving possibly outdoors as well with your own content you would like students to learn
- Geocaching is especially interesting for older students, kind of a version of ‘Pokemon go’ but more educational and less technology-driven
- Curriculum ideas for homeschooling parents- a great resource to share if parents need help – but also to get ideas for any educator
- EduBreakout really cool idea that can be homemade and can be used with any content to get learners to collaborate (even at social distancing) and problem solve, and do it while moving and going outdoors
- Green schoolyards is a fantastic side to plan the right environment, lessons and such
Websites to support: