Outdoor Maths Lesson: Learning in the Sihlwald Forest with ISZL

Outdoor maths lessons at iszl
Fiona Flintham

Exploring Practical Mathematics with ISZL's Outdoor Maths Lessons

Imagine a maths lesson not confined by four walls, but taking place outside in the forest. This is exactly the setting for a fourth-grade outdoor maths lesson led by teacher David Edwards and primary school maths coach Neil McCallion in the Sihlwald Forest. Today, the agenda is a combination of natural science and practical mathematics.

As Mr. Edwards takes the children across a river and through the woodlands, the objective is clear: to find and measure the oldest tree. The children are not just students today; they are explorers, navigators, and natural scientists.

The student's reaction to this outdoor learning experience is really positive. Freed from the confines of their desks, they relish the opportunity to engage in the learning process. According to Mr. Edwards, the children appreciate the chance to learn outside, using their whole bodies instead of being restricted to writing at a table.

Mr. McCallion, a mathematics specialist, advocates for the forest as a classroom. He believes that the outdoor maths lesson can help children to understand that mathematics has practical applications and is used in real-world contexts.

ISZL, our international school in Switzerland, is lucky to have the Sihlwald Forest on our doorstep. For 24 years, it has been left to return to its natural state, with minimal forestry management.

Through the day's adventures, the children learn about the impact of their actions on the environment, the reasons behind the design of hiking trails, and even delve into dendrochronology—the science of tree rings. As they measure and calculate, they are learning about maths, life, nature, and the passage of time.

In this unique outdoor maths lesson, students are told to listen out for individual bird calls but also to respect the natural environment and avoid potential dangers.

As the lesson concludes, the children reflect on their experiences. They ponder whether maths feels different when learned outside. The consensus is clear: learning outside, with friends and the freedom to explore, is not just educational—it's fun.

The day in the forest is a testament to the power of outdoor learning. It's a story of how changing the setting of education can ignite curiosity, foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and perhaps most importantly, remind us of the joy of learning.

In our latest podcast episode Joanna Cull accompanies Grade 4 students and their teachers as they go to the Sihlwald Forest to learn about nature, dendrochronology and on-the-spot multiplication. 

Listen to the full Podcast episode now on PodbeanApple or Spotify.


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