Knowing that it’s January- cold wet and dark- can make many of us throw out the idea of outdoor learning, before we have really weighted up the risks and benefits. Yet, on the journey to work or school, we are mesmerised by the beauty of a frosty morning, or the reflection of huge puddles water on a saturated Forest lawns and heaths. The learning opportunities in winter are as numerous and fascinating as those long summer picnic days, so remember to look for the value of being outdoors in the cold and make planning “what to wear”, part of the adventure and learning.
Most children might not have snow boots and all in one ski suits, but everyone can wear layers and wellies can be cheap. Learn about insulating materials, looking after yourself and making independent choices with children of all ages by planning personal outfits before a trip or walk. Children can decorate and colour in a model, labelling it with their own clothes they intend to wear, or take it home to discuss and plan with parents.
e.g. My pink coat, 3 pairs of socks (the Minnie Mouse ones), a white vest, a blue stripey T-shirt, mum’s woolly hat and my old blue trousers because I don’t mind if they get muddy.
Help children understand that most of our body heat is lost through the head and the usefulness of hats. Test which types of gloves and fabric get wet and cold and which stay dry.
Don’t plan to write anything, your fingers will be too cold, but share poems, story walks and walking along songs. Why not hide objects from the story along a route and read the next page together at each stopping point. Going on a bear hunt, Stanley’s Stick, The Stick Man, and The wild, wild woods lend themselves easily to walks for younger children. For older groups, why not take a class book and leave clues taken from random pages of the text to see if pupils can work out which book they are taken from, or, collect random characters, objects and “disasters” which pupils have to fill in the gaps themselves to create their own version of events.
- Find an ice puddle look at the patterns through a magnifying glass,
- Pick up an “ice lolly”. Experiment with how thick, thin and strong it is.
- Go for a silent walk, listen to the different noises beneath your feet in the frost.
- Catch a spider web on camera, beautifully laden with frost.
- Take a thermometer. Test the temperature difference in a hedge, under logs and under water.
- Make a nest. Hide a tiny jar of hot water in it and pretend it’s a mouse. is it still warm when your return at the end of your adventure?
On a cold day, you’ll find the best activities are the one that respond to the magical discoveries around you. So, be prepared for anything!