Let’s all go outdoors
Good natural sciences education encourages environmentally-friendly behaviour. Nature should be seen, heard, smelt and tasted. That is why Pabo students are going outdoors with The Hague’s primary school pupils. Student Vlera: “It’s great that in The Hague you can go outdoors if you want to give natural science lessons.”
The teachers of the future must know their way within natural sciences. That is why the Environmental Education department of the Municipality of The Hague is working closely with the Pabo. Sylvia van den Berg from the Zuiderpark Environmental Education Centre (Milieueducatiefcentrum Zuiderpark): “Natural sciences is a compulsory component of the Pabo degree programme. We show them that they should take children outdoors. You can’t learn about nature from a film or presentation in the classroom. Nature should be felt; experienced with all your senses.”
Pabo students are taught that nature should be felt and experienced in their very first year during the Autumn Excursions. It is a fixed component of their programme. Pabo students give lessons to groups 5 and 6 (pupils aged 8-10) from Dutch primary schools in various parks in The Hague. Primary schools can sign up for this for free.
After a short presentation during a lecture, the Pabo students go to the area where they will be giving the lessons. The lessons are on five themes: leaves, seeds & fruits, soil organisms, mushrooms and adjustments coming winter. They develop their assignments in groups, outdoors in nature with concrete materials. They have about five minutes for the lesson on each theme. They can decide the specifics themselves. Sylvia: “We of course help them with that. It’s not easy for first year students to suddenly come up with something. We provide examples and help them with the preparations. Because what do you do if it rains, for instance? Pabo itself also provides good supervision. Lecturer Gert van der Slikke always watches on.”
Because nature changes by the day, the students also learn to improvise. Quite some time can pass between the initial exploration of the area and the actual day of the lesson. The area can look very different by then. Furthermore, an important aspect is making contact with children. Gert: “The best way to involve Pabo students is with children, it then becomes meaningful and concrete to them. So straight away in the first week we get them to go outside and give an outdoor lesson to children. In the second year we go to Wilheminaoord in Drenthe for a week and we do lots of work with the city farms. The Hague offers many possibilities that they can make use of as a teacher later on. We hope they will do that.”
Students Zoë, Martijn and Rody have just given a class in Zuiderpark on the theme of soil organisms. “We had the children look for creepy crawlies and we then looked at them under a magnifying glass. We found all kinds of things: a centipede, worms, woodlice and even a frog. Some children weren’t so keen to start with but they ended up wanting to hold the box and look at the creatures. It’s nice to see that transition.”
All three enjoyed preparing the lesson and being outdoors with the children. The lesson itself was a bit short though. Martijn: “I definitely want to do more of this type of thing when I become a teacher. Nature is everywhere, so it’s easy to organise.”
Amber Anne, Britt and Vlera saw how enthusiastic the children were and want to do more of this type of thing later on. Vlera: “I think it’s important that children learn outdoors. Natural sciences are becoming increasingly important with all the environmental plans. It’s great that here in The Hague you can actually go outdoors when you want to give a lesson on nature.”
The Pabo students give lessons in the Zuiderpark, Scheveningen Woods, the Uithof nature area, Meer & Bos or Clingendael. This year, a total of 45 groups from primary schools in The Hague have had an outdoor lesson. Twenty-six of those were given lessons by Pabo students.