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Views & Opinion Bring the outside in: How to connect

learning with the outdoors Comment by Gavin Wilkes, Inspired Building Systems

So much inspiration can be drawn from the outdoors, from colours and shapes to materials – they can all be used to model the inside of any classroom, anywhere. Changing the atmosphere you teach in and, most importantly, your pupils learn in can have a profound effect. Here are my top five tips to help you draw inspiration from mother nature that are as easy as 1,2,3.

• Bring plants indoors – This is an easy, effortless way to bring nature into a classroom, as well as a quick spot of interior decorating. From cut flowers to leafy plants, it makes a world of difference. Plants also improve the air quality, so it will be doing everyone a favour!

• Grow your own – Try growing indoor plants from seeds or shoots. Anything from small, pretty primroses to unusual plants like bamboo – there are thousands of choices out there. This can also benefit children by teaching them to take care of something, and allocating a little bit of responsibility to groups in classes can be a great exercise or competition.

• Encourage natural light – Like some other buildings and classrooms, eco classrooms have very large glass windows, some stretching from floor to ceiling which allows bright, natural light to stream in, thus reducing the need for too much artificial light and energy. If a classroom doesn’t already have large windows, try making sure that the blinds or curtains are open wide, take any obstruction off the windows and ensure that large pieces of light blocking furniture aren’t in the way.

• Light walls reflect light – Brighter, lighter walls will work alongside the natural light to brighten and illuminate a classroom, giving the effect that you are in fact outside! Paint entire walls, or if that is a little too much work, simply paint images on the walls – from flowers and trees to butterflies and bees – the opportunities are endless.

• Introduce wood as furniture – Eco classrooms are typically wooden on the outside, as they are clad in cedar, so they are quite literally made of

the outdoors. However, introducing more wood into a classroom in the form of rustic benches, tables or even small trees really helps to add to the natural, outdoorsy atmosphere of a classroom.

These are just some of many methods that you can use to help bring the outdoors into your classroom, but the possibilities are truly endless, from small scale to large, drastic changes, and many options at very low costs, there are simply no excuses!

At Inspired Building Systems, we combine our extensive modern methods of construction knowledge with the latest in energy saving technology to deliver inspirational 21st century learning spaces with efficiencies in time, cost and the carbon footprint. We have a strong commitment to sustainability, and have also recently launched our ‘20 Trees’ project, where for every eco classroom order we receive, we will donate 20 new trees to the Caledonian forest in collaboration with Trees For Life.

Building ideas and bringing computing to life Comment by Ivan Langton, head of ICT & Computing at Budehaven Community School in Cornwall

Computing can be a really difficult subject to get your head around, especially when faced with a computer screen containing nothing but code and the prospect of spending a great deal of time debugging. For teachers, the challenge is getting students to really engage with the idea instead of thinking, ‘this is just another thing on my timetable that I have to turn up to’. The question is: how can you make it relevant to them?

One way to do this is to have projects that allow the students to create something of their own, rather than just following a list of instructions. This gives them ownership and lets them choose something that they are interested in or care about as the basis for their work. We run the Apps for Good course with our Year 9 group, a project where the students can design their own app whilst learning practical computing skills like coding. They get to research their ideas

and see what the technology market already has to offer. This has been fantastic, as it has helped them to see the real purpose of studying computing, leading to greater enthusiasm.

Allowing the students to choose their own teams is a great motivator. As teachers, we’re often inclined to tick boxes when allocating groups, making sure that the students are sufficiently mixed so that everyone can see the outcomes. With creative projects like this however, it’s far more beneficial to allow like-minded students to collaborate, as they will be able to agree on their area of interest, and this will be far less stressful. It’s a real opportunity for students to build their teamwork and communication skills, as they will have to work not only within their groups, but also present and discuss their ideas with other students in the classroom. The Apps for Good course culminates in a


national competition which the students can aspire to, and this generates a healthy competitive attitude within the classroom. Every team wants to create the best project, so although there are many times where groups will come together to provide caring and constructive feedback, there are other occasions when they have to adopt a winning mentality to really drive their idea forwards. I think that this makes it more fun as it’s not just about getting the grade at the end of the year!

Having a physical and observable outcome is important in a lot of STEM subjects, and computing is no different. Our students have really enjoyed building their ideas, creating mock-ups and actually getting to see what their products would look like. During the course last year, we had a lesson observation and the visitor was blown away by our students’ passion and enthusiasm for the subject! It’s something to be proud of.

November 2015

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