By Alexander (Coke) Smith, Environmental Systems and Societies Coordinator at Bangkok Patana School
The benefits of a student getting outdoors and putting their learning into practice are vast, not only can it cement their knowledge but also inspire and ignite their interest in certain subjects as well as making the curriculum more engaging. In Bangkok Patana School’s continuing quest to offer the best learning facilities in Asia, the current Outdoor Classroom will be expanded to include a new building to be completed in the next 12 months. What makes this classroom building more unusual is that it is being designed by a group of Year 13 Environmental Systems and Societies students who are applying their classroom acquired knowledge to this very practical, very real project. Drawing on everything they have learned both inside and outside the classroom and adhering to their commitment as global citizens, the building will be made from 100% sustainable materials.
The unique Outdoor Classroom facility at Bangkok Patana School allows students from all Year groups the opportunity to participate in true experiential learning in a natural setting, exploring and investigating the wonders of biodiversity that only a fully functioning ecosystem can truly provide. This insight and understanding about the world around them not only has academic implications but more importantly arms students with the knowledge to make considered, educated choices with regards to safeguarding their local and wider environments. Rather than use text books or a search engine for research, Secondary Biology students have been exploring the flora and fauna to find the creatures they wish to study. By taking their learning to the Outdoor Classroom to research living creatures and in turn produce technical, biological illustrations as part of the curriculum, the fresh air and hands on learning deepened their understanding of the topic to a level unlikely to be facilitated in the classroom.
Understanding an ecosystem and the nutrient cycle is a key element of science, for the Year 5 students being able to get amongst the trees and see their ‘Rainforest’ learning in action was critical to cementing this fundamental component of science and inspiring them to delve deeper into how plants adapt to their environment.
Outdoor learning is a unique experience that has many benefits from encouraging curiosity and nurturing a love of science to developing empathy for the environment and deepening classroom learning. We sincerely hope the Outdoor Classroom will further student’s development as passionate global citizens, concerned with the world and environment around them and committed to its protection.
Alexander (Coke) Smith has been an environmental educator for thirty years with experience teaching in many schools in such areas as Washington, California, China and currently in Thailand, where he is an Environmental Systems and Societies instructor at Bangkok Patana School. Coke is also an avid wildlife photographer and writer with publications in dozens of magazines and books worldwide, including such publications as BBC’s Planet Earth Two and Science Magazine as well as many others.