Learning outdoors! New perspectives in science education

2023-03-31 Within the framework of the seminar "Outdoors - Concepts and Ideas for Transdisciplinary Teaching", students dealt with the question of how learning processes in the context of teaching outdoors can succeed, in the spirit of experience-oriented and inter- and transdisciplinary teaching.

Classes usually take place in a room. Maybe a grey, discouraging room, maybe one with big windows and pictures - but most teaching for most people takes place indoors. It doesn't have to be that way, found Lydia Kater-Wettstädt, an administrative professor of sustainable development and physical education, not just to try something different, but because learning can work very well outside. "Indoor learning' often means that students have to cognitively absorb something more or less abstract," says Kater-Wettstädt, "but this rarely has anything to do with 'real' life. Outdoors, on the other hand, the learning occasions are diverse, unpredictable and always authentic. In addition, the learner is challenged in many different ways. The outdoor experience complements learning with sensual, social and emotional impressions and provides opportunities to develop and pursue very individual questions."

In her seminar, Kater-Wettstädt cooperated with the "Educational Initiative LANDSCHAFTSABENTEUER for the Hamburg Metropolitan Region" and the Wendisch Evern Primary School. Students developed teaching materials that can be used outdoors: How do you recognise poisonous mushrooms? What is tree sponsorship? How do you explore the forest mindfully (instead of just walking through it like through a shopping street)? How can vegetable beds be planted in a sensible and sustainable way? The results were handed over to the primary school headmaster, Martin Leupold, and his staff and - in keeping with the spirit of transdisciplinary teaching - will also find concrete application in everyday teaching.

Student Anneleen Meyer looks back: "I took a lot away from the seminar, especially more courage to approach learning differently. The importance of movement, contact and encounter for learning and the potential of holistic approaches became much clearer to me through my own experimentation. The many topics and approaches that one encounters outside can take all children along in a completely different way and motivate them for learning."

"Inclusive, sustainable learning only works," Kater-Wettstädt explains, "if you make direct contact with yourself, with others and with the environment, not just pretend. Everything in our current discourse is increasingly aimed at the nonsensical, the digital, the intangible. But the world is not like that. That's why we should always look for the way into real life, outdoors, together with the pupils. Especially topics such as sustainability are misleadingly presented in 'indoor lessons'.