In The Classroom with Josh Jenner: Part 2
If you missed Part 1 of our interview with Josh last week, you can check it out here. But without further ado, let's carry on!
Are there any groups you currently work with other than schools?
Yes, Orienteering is a versatile sport that can be adapted for a variety of audiences. We also offer corporate team building sessions, where the emphasis is on teamwork and communication. We run these team building days from a variety of bases across the UK, where we provide conference facilities and catering to create a unique experience outside of the office.
Our custom format is great for mixed ability groups where you don't need to be the fittest person in the company, but you can still win the challenge.
We can run custom birthday party events which can be designed for any age group from any location.
We also work very closely with our network of school games organisers and sports partnerships where we run orienteering festivals and inter-school competitions to give even more children the opportunity to experience Orienteering at their local outdoor centre or park.
What kind of impact or change have you seen in schools that use The Outdoor Classroom if any?
The data we receive from The Outdoor Classroom users constantly amazes me at the wide variety of applications our members are using it for. At the core of every activity is the sport of Orienteering but The Outdoor Classroom provides a digital platform to take any subject or topic outside of the classroom. Because children are active, they are burning lots of energy, without realising the distance they are actually covering.
This means that when they are back in the classroom they are more focused and calmer to concentrate on other tasks.
After the pandemic there has been a big issue with the oracy skills in schools, particularly with younger children. In a lot of situations these children would struggle to speak out loud in class but what we are seeing is when these children are outside and have the responsibility to film themselves or speak into the iPad to answer questions they are gaining confidence and are more capable of speaking out when they return back to the classroom.
The Outdoor Classroom is a great chance for teachers to give children the freedom to explore the school grounds and discover areas that they might not otherwise visit. Having this freedom combined with working in groups, develops their team building and communication skills as well as their independence and sense of adventure.
What unexpected positives came out of your creation of The Outdoor Classroom if any?
Every week we hear positive stories of how schools are embedding the system into their curriculum and using it to inspire a future generation to be physically active and socially responsible humans.
For me though, from a purest Orienteering point of view, I love The Big League competition we run in the Spring term and seeing the effort schools put in to compete for the different prizes on offer. This year we teamed up with British Orienteering and The British Schools Orienteering Association who provided some incredible prizes for our participating schools.
To score The Big league, we rank our schools on the four data points that we capture; distance covered, time spent, number of sessions completed and percentage of pupils active.
This is a very fair and inclusive system which means that all schools, regardless of size of grounds, pupils on roll or learning ability can take part in a nationwide competition from the comfort of their school grounds.
As it's a digital system, we can monitor live data to track the progress of the schools and it also means that it's impossible to cheat, making it 100% fair and equal for every single child to participate. This is what I love.
Do you have a favourite course a school has created? What was it?
Schools have been incredibly inventive and have used The Outdoor Classroom to teach all sorts from Maths, English and Science to Art, Music and Nature. I have two favourite uses so far which have stretched the boundaries of The Outdoor Classroom, taking it far beyond just an Orienteering competition.
The first one is from a school in London that wanted to use it for an art project they were doing to celebrate the diversity of the students at the school. These students created massive posters depicting what inspires them, which could be a person in history, a family member or maybe a place they have visited. The school displayed these artworks around the campus for all to see, but in the corner of each one, they embedded our permanent plaques so that users could travel around the school, visiting the artwork and bring it to life by watching a video from the artist about their story or inspiration.
The other stand out use of The Outdoor Classroom is from a special needs school, where in most cases the children are unable to read or write. The school wanted their students to take part in the Great British Garden Bird Watch but instead of staying in one place, they created a course around the school grounds where the students could listen to an audio clip of birdsong and then listen to see if they could hear or even see the bird that made the noise.
I loved the innovation of this because it was an engaging and exciting experience for the children to be active but also explore the extensive school grounds which they wouldn't normally get the chance to do.
What does the future look like for The Outdoor Classroom?
Exciting! We are on a very rapid journey of discovery and innovation, led by our schools who are challenging the way our system works and the ways it can be used. It is vital for us that we work back from our end user, and hear from the pupils and give them a voice to speak about their experience and what features would improve their outdoor learning.
An issue that seems to be more frequently occurring is that schools are unable to travel to off site visits where vehicles are required, either because of the cost but also safeguarding.
Many of our schools are located next to or within walking distance of their local park or green space and have asked us if they can take The Outdoor Classroom off site.
The simple answer is yes!, and so we are rapidly developing our system to be available in public spaces for everyone to benefit from, not just children but every member of the community. After all, why should children have all the fun!? Watch this space…