Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life in the UK: A different educational approach for children

Every school in the UK gives out a handbook to prospective parents.  Connor's school is no different and I was amused to read a line which goes 

We embrace outdoor learning and would appreciate it if you could consider the changeable nature of Scottish weather conditions and provide your child with the appropriate jacket and footwear. 

Other parents had told me to take that warning seriously so Connor is always sent off to school with a proper coat, hat, scarf, gloves and an extra jumper.

When I arrived at school yesterday to pick him up, it was snowing.  And guess what the Nursery children were doing?

They were all suited up in their winter gear and were each given a square container box.

Then they were all ushered outside into the play area with a teacher supervising play and the children were encouraged to catch as many snowflakes as they could.  Or they could shovel up snow into the containers and make little snowcastles.  Just like sandcastles... but made from snow.

They could also pack the snow into little square snow cakes or snowballs and asked to observe the difference between the snow falling from the sky (soft, powdery) and the snow that had melted on the ground and packed into ice (hard, slippery).

It was National Science Week and the children were learning about the changing nature of water. They were learning the water takes on different forms at different temperatures.

I stood there, watching and smiling for a moment because this is perfectly normal for most UK schools. As long as it's not going to kill the kids, the kids are all chucked outside when possible and encouraged to learn from their surroundings and experiences.

Compare this to my own childhood in Malaysia where I was forbidden to take part in most outdoor activities because:
1.  it would make me far too dark and that's terribly ugly for a girl (but then again, I was born darker skinned than most Chinese girls and no staying away from the sun would ever make me white!)
2.  sports and going outside was a waste of time.  My job was to stay indoors, study, pass exams and get into Uni

So that's why Connor's class was out in the snow, having a great time and not knowing they were actually learning something.

I was smiling because I was thinking of my mum and how horrified she would have been if she had been the one to pick her grandson up from school.  "NO!  GO INSIDE!  THEY'LL ALL DIE OF PNEUMONIA!"


  1. I've stumbled upon your blog by accident, was looking for information on schools in KL. I'm Malaysian and newly back in KL after teaching in the US for a few years. Anyway... it is legally mandated for us to take the kids outside. Also it's more punishment for me if we don't go outside, since I will be trapped inside with 20 energetic children!

    1. Is that under the current Msian curriculum? I'm not sure how the current curriculum stands on that, my comment was based on my own experience.

      Connor seems happier in this school as well. I can't judge if it's because he's getting older or if it's the school that's more to his liking.

      On another note, welcome home and thanks for dropping by my blog!

    2. Sorry... I meant to say that in the US we have to take the kids outside, and we had a required amount of PE lessons we need to teach every week. In Malaysia..... well, I don't think it's the same requirement, as far as I know? But yes, certainly schools abroad are more relaxed about certain things than in Malaysia!

    3. Ah I see. Not sure about current Msian requirements. When I was a tyke, we had PE lessons but that petered out as we got older. Being girls, we did hate being sweaty and sticky in the hot Malaysian weather after PE with nothing to change into after. They didn't make PE clothing a must in my day unlike Connor's school where every child is required to have a set of gym clothes at school that he can change into for sports.