Learning alfresco – ideas for teaching in the school grounds


If we sit around waiting for ‘good’ weather in this country we would never do anything. Just dry is sufficient for taking a lesson or two outdoors.

Here are two or three starter ideas for outdoor learning – with a particular emphasis on them working cooperatively and collaboratively.



Who’s the nearest? - Guessing weights and measures



Put children in teams and set a series of ’guesstimate’ challenges for them:

Take out some basic equipment to check on their guesstimates (e.g. tape measure and small scales)


The exact nature of the challenges will be for you to decide, depending on what is available in your outdoor space – and what you want them to practise - but here are some suggestions:

  • Put just half a kilo of sand in your plastic bag using the spoon provided. Points awarded for the nearest gram.
  • Cut a piece of string 1.2m long.
  • Estimate the weight of this rock/log/garden ornament
  • How far is it from here to that tree / bench?
  • What might be the diameter of that bit of garden or that picnic table?
  • Estimate the length of this rope.
  • Pat your heads / hop on one leg for 50 seconds only.
  • Open your mouths and be silent for 1 minute 10 seconds


There will be many more that you and your children can think of – if you do it a few times they should get better at their ‘guesstimations.

Children have to work together to decide who will do what and how to count/ measure etc.


Noises for Story making

In preparation for storytelling and writing why not use noises outdoors as a way of generating ideas?  (you can do this indoors as well but sounds are perceived differently outdoors and become more interesting)


Set up a ‘screen’ or some other way of children not being able to see what you are using to make the noises. In pairs or teams ask them to distinguish what the noises make them think of. They can draw a story board picture if that helps.


Examples might include:

Pulling a cork out of a bottle

Pouring out liquid from a jug into a bucket or water butt

Dropping something onto tarmac – dropping the same thing on to grass.

Wafting a large piece of card or fabric

Clicking two stones or sticks together

Brushing up some dirt with a stiff bristle brush


Gather children’s answers –can they picture what was happening?  Who was there? Where in their story might it appear?

Children can then choose two or three of their noise pictures to plan a short story to tell to others.


Natural Symphony


This is a variation on the previous idea - but this time ask children to go and find things in the outdoor space for themselves – ones that will make ‘the most unusual noise’. (You decide on what the ‘rules’ are with regard to where they can go and what they can pick up etc.)

They then bring them back for others to hear. Get children to listen to each other’s ideas with their eyes closed – ask them to generate ideas of what each sounds reminds them of.

Collect the ideas for use later – have a sound ideas board in the classroom



No child left behind

This is a good one to do with year 6 at this time of year – as they consider how they are going to have to work and get along with new people.


Have a large collection of different things and materials available: paper plates, rope, chairs, cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, plastic sheeting… this is your ‘shop’.


Put children into teams of 5 or 6 and give each of them some money (could be monopoly money or coins, or set up a ‘tab’ for each team)


Give each item in your shop a price tag and tell the teams they are going to be able to buy some of the items.


Explain the challenge: to get all the members of your team across the ‘polluted river’ (or toxic waste ground – snake infested pit - or whatever you choose). The team that does it successfully, for the least amount of money, will win. However – you will also be awarding points for teams that you see working together well.


No one’s feet have to touch the ground – they can only use the materials they buy from you.


Give children time to look at the challenge (how far they have to go) – the cost of things in your shop and decide what they are going to buy.


When they have all they think they need, start the challenge.


When it finishes ask children to consider:

  • How did your team decide upon a plan?
  • Did everyone agree with the plan? How did you deal with that?
  • If you had to score your team communication – what score between 1 -5 would you give?  Why?
  • Who led the planning and bidding?
  • Did you have all the materials you needed?
  • What would you change if you had to do it again?




For some more ideas (literacy) for the outdoors why not check out our whole school Outdoor Pack

outdoor literacy pack

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