In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore

Classrooms Without Walls: From kayaking a raft along the Ganges River to exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a science project – outdoor education offers students of all ages the opportunity to learn beyond the borders of their classroom. WhichSchoolAdvisor looks at how international schools in Singapore are embracing this way of teaching and encouraging students to take on unfamiliar challenges and develop lifelong skills.
In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore
By Carli Allan
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Early years: Outdoor learning starts here

Outdoor facilities for DUCKS students at Dulwich College (Singapore) include a brilliant bike track 

Learning outside the classroom is widely recognised as an essential part of early years education. Many of Singapore’s most popular international schools offer nursery and kindergarten classes in a self-contained early-years’ centre with its own community of classrooms, learning pods – and outdoor play areas.

The all-through IB school GESS tells parents on its website, “Outdoor learning is outside play” – and outdoor education at this young age can be as simple as enjoying the climbing frames, sensory garden, sand and water play, and bikes track that have become the ‘norm’ for many international schools.

Based on the Scandinavian approach of giving children the experience of connecting nature from an early age, some international schools have launched a more ‘formal’ outdoor programme for its youngest students. Dulwich College (Singapore) has introduced Forest School to its DUCKS early years programme (accredited by the UK's Forest School Learning Initiative), and OWIS (Nanyang) has ‘nature classrooms’ with a miniature forest and sensory garden.

Most recently, Tanglin Trust has launched the Tanglin Forest School Programme into its Early Years curriculum; this complements the school’s co-curricular forest adventure programme, where Reception to Year 2 children experience outdoor learning.

Martin Foakes says:

“We have always recognised the fundamental importance of spending time outdoors in nature for the health and wellbeing of all our children. It is especially important in today’s world of remote learning and increased screen time.

“The Forest School’s philosophy of outdoor learning is rapidly gaining traction in the world of international education, and many schools around the world are launching similar projects that are based on the idea of giving the children a regular opportunity to explore their relationship with the natural world.”

Students enjoy the new Tanglin Forest School Programme

A corner of Tanglin’s campus has been transformed into a miniature ‘nature reserve’, where children are learning to learn explore and interact with the natural environment in a safe and inspiring way. Qualified Level 3 teachers lead activities such as toasting marshmallows, making tools and toys, building dens and so on, as well as observing nature and recording how plants and animals respond to changes in the weather and the time of day.

“The key to any authentic Forest School experience is that it is child-led and exploratory, taking place in a natural outdoor environment,” explains Mr Foakes.

“It is also important to make it a regular part of school life throughout the year and not just ticking a box on a one-off trip. In a constructivist approach to education, the learning environment is often described as the ‘third teacher’, so in the natural setting of our own Forest School project, we acknowledge that it is Nature that is the third teacher, and that the learning is very much student-centred.”

Next: CCAs: Outdoor learning after the bell rings

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