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Claiming the great outdoors as an entrepreneurial learning space

Throughout the pandemic many schools have remained open. Teachers have provided essential provision for key workers, delivering food, toys and digital devices to children in need at home. All staff have rolled up their sleeves to come up with practical solutions to complex and serious challenges to keep children safe and fed and, where possible, learning. At times, schools and teachers have felt like the fourth emergency service. More than ever our teachers have needed to be entrepreneurial, creative, collaborative, resilient and optimistic.

Teachers have had to try to keep children apart, socially distancing, with all the windows open or learning outside. All staff have had to put on their critical and creative thinking hats to find new ways of getting the job done, with all hands on deck. A significant change in practice has come with the need to be outside, without all the usual props of classroom life. The good news is that these adaptations appear to align with emerging findings about how children are significantly more engaged when they learn outside, playing and learning with natural resources.

Research is beginning to emerge into the impact of various responses to COVID, like the increase in online learning, and the need to take as much learning as possible outside. For many children, if not most, learning outside has led to marked improvements , not only engagement and motivation, but also, wide-ranging entrepreneurial competences.

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash, Free to use under the Unsplash License

Open spaces have been turned into classrooms, with rich sensory experiences alerting children to the rich and diverse resources available to them with which to play. In the school yards and local parks, children practised critical mathematical and scientific concepts, exploring, sorting and counting, leaves, stones, acorns and pinecones, scouring their environment for resources to make up games with. Children developed new vocabulary organising themselves and their resources in creative, collaborative ways.

The great news for parENTrepreneurs is that the outdoors offers an excellent resource for entrepreneurial learning, and new opportunities to be creative about learning, drawing from the different naturally occurring resources available. Natural settings such as beaches and countryside offer obviously rich settings, but urban communities are also stuffed full of experiences, places and people, which can be explored to enhance learning and create value for others.

Litter picks can become scavenger hunts identifying ways to use and recycle cardboard, plastic and unwanted items. Children are adept at repurposing things, building dens, dressing up, rehearsing for future roles. Entrepreneurial learning encourages children to look at things in new ways, Module 2 of the parENTrepreneurs course shows parents how to harvest their local environment to create value, solve problems and learn in fun ways with whatever is available to them as stimulus and resource.

In the urban environment, spaces, landmarks, buildings, transport and people can become opportunities to practise and develop competences when children look to find ways to improve life for themselves and their families and neighbours.

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Photo by Nadia Clabassi on Unsplash, Free to use under the Unsplash License