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Learning beyond the classroom

Posted by Michelle Raffo on October 23, 2021 at 12:15 PM


running ls funWeekend trips to Ashland Nature Center, Coverdale Farm, The DE Children's Museum, and our local libraries have been some of my family's favorite local places to explore. But as a teacher and mom, I have found learning beyond school is often right under your own roof or in your backyard.


Food is such a great way to continue learning at home

Following a recipe is a great interdisciplinary lesson: 
  • Read the recipe.
  • Measure the ingredients for math (extra challenge if you double the recipe)!
  • Follow directions.
  • Use artistic creativity when plating.
Develop patience while you wait for the first yummy taste!

Food is also a great way to study science by trying a new food using the five senses: 
  • Sight - Describe what it looks like and record observations with a drawing or words.
  • Smell - Describe how it smells and record notes if possible.
  • Touch - What does it feel like? Write down observations.
  • Hearing - Can you hear anything when you shake or move it? Write what you hear.
  • Taste - Make a hypothesis about the flavor or texture. Take a bite, test your hypothesis, and revise as necessary.
Food also provides a great social studies lesson:
  • Through cuisine, we have an opportunity to learn about cultures and traditions. Who created this dish or recipe?
  • Talk about and share your family's stories about food. Ask children to share in return.
  • Not only are you building your family community, but you are also helping your child develop their communication--practicing both receptive and productive language skills.

Playing with Blocks builds focus, perseverance, and outside-the-box thinking

blocksOften you can find kids building with blocks. This play activity is great on its own for skills development, but adding some new twists can continue that learning.

  • Working with blocks of any kind, you can play a game of mirror image, in which one person creates a building and another has to copy it. This provides opportunities to focus on details, use spatial sense, and apply fine motor skills to build.
  • For an added challenge, you can tap into communication skills by hiding the first building behind a box and describing it for the other person to build. Remember, it is very helpful to share lots of careful details and descriptions for the builder, who will need to use careful listening skills to retrieve the information and apply it to the building.
  • It is also fun to have building challenges. Try to build a tower more than 12 blocks high (you want a task that is a little tricky to first accomplish, but not too hard to achieve). Then give it a try. As original ideas do not work, evaluate what you did, think about how you can adjust, and try again.

If you have budding artists, creating a mini art gallery is a fun way to construct and then share their work.

The more obvious art and fine motor skills can be practiced through this activity, but there are additional ways to bring in more skills and fun. You can make tickets for entry to the gallery. This can add practice with simple counting 1-to-1 or even money and making change. As with most gallery and museum experiences, guests receive a pamphlet or guide when they enter. Creating a pamphlet with a description of the works and artists along with a map provide writing and spatial skill development.

Nature is a great place to focus on your five senses. 

  • Being outside can help children learn how to emotionally regulate. Encourage children to practice mindfulness and take a moment to breathe.
  • In addition to the healthy gross motor skills (whole-body movements) you will get on your adventures, you can add a scavenger hunt, which provides opportunities to observe closely and record your findings.
  • Take time to notice and discover the nature around you. Talk about the signs of the current season, watch how the animals eat and move, or maybe even use an app on your phone to learn about the local plants and bugs (this is a favorite of my boys)!

Family book club or game night can provide many opportunities for applying and practicing skills.

  • Whether using a book for directions and cards for a game, there are lots of opportunities for reading practice, both fluency and comprehension. Many social skill learning opportunities will present themselves, including taking turns and following directions when sharing supplies.
  • A great skill of game playing is developing emotional regulation and handling how to win and lose. Strategies and teamwork are also important during game play, and there are many opportunities for practicing communication skills. 
In addition to the fun and connections these activities can provide for your family, they also provide benefits for skill development and application. Referring to Chapter 3 - "Learning and Transfer" in the book "How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition" (2000), the authors stress,
"the ultimate goal of learning is to have access to information for a wide set of purposes -- that the learning will in some way transfer to other circumstances. In this sense, then, the ultimate goal of schooling is to help students transfer what they have learned in school to everyday settings of home, community, and workplace."
Therefore, learning should continue outside of school, providing opportunities to apply academic, social, and emotional skills through exploration and practice. So get your family together and have some fun while learning!
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Michelle Raffo is a Kindergarten teacher at Sanford School, a Preschool- Grade 12 College Preparatory School in Hockessin, Delaware.

National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


Topics: Parenting Tips