No matter the age or subject, Canadian International School (CIS) aims to extend lessons into the outdoors whenever there is the opportunity for students to learn in a purposeful manner. This helps create many educational benefits such as memorable and authentic learning experiences, says Amanda Saunders, junior kindergarten teacher at CIS.
“If you think back to your most memorable childhood experiences, I bet most of them were outside!” she says.
Additionally, learning in a natural environment is beneficial because it helps sharpen brain development, creativity, teamwork, independence, and social and gross motor skills. It also generates greater awareness of the environment. Modern day distractions and limited natural environments in residential areas mean that children may miss out on these huge opportunities if parents and schools aren’t proactive about getting children outdoors, adds Amanda.
The length and focus of CIS’s outdoor learning programmes vary depending on the age group. In Kindergarten, it is inquiry and play-based and mostly takes place in the school’s Outdoor Discovery Centres (ODC). In the older grades, it involves lessons in the ODCs, field trips, excursion week and Open Minds – hands-on learning experiences in settings, such as Fort Canning Park, Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve and the Eco Garden at the Science Centre.
“One of the key features of our outdoor learning programmes is our enchanting Outdoor Discovery Centres located at both campuses,” says Amanda. These centres are used as an extension of CIS’s indoor classrooms and support learning in ways that extend far beyond a traditional playground. “Our children love everything about these spaces, but there are some extra-special features,” she says.
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It’s here that Kindergarten students slip off their shoes and get mud between their toes. In doing so, they’ll explore math concepts such as pouring, measuring and capacity, and develop their sensory and language skills.
From the soothing waterfall to the colourful fish, turtles, dragonflies and plants, children develop an understanding of the importance of water ecosystems.
Children collaborate to produce large art murals using leaves, sticks and flowers from the garden.
Students discover wonderful sounds made by playing with chimes, plastic buckets and other items attached to the purpose-built walls. To learn more, visit the CIS website or call to book a tour.
From The Finder Kids (Vol. 21), November 2017
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