Accelerated Learning is based on the idea that an individual has a preferred learning style – visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (VAK). It also takes this further into the area of multiple intelligences, suggesting that some people learn better through musical activities, maths based tasks, teamwork and so on. Accelerated Learning also uses memory techniques such as mind mapping to make learning easier. Rather than teaching a lot of content, the focus is on learning how to be a good learner (crucial in a world that is changing so fast). The theory is a well researched one and suggests that we all learn more easily, and with more enjoyment and less stress, if we are allowed to follow our own particular learning styles. Forest Schools provide an excellent means of providing the whole variety of learning styles. This was evident on the course day when we all made a nest to show one of the multiple intelligences. There were people working alone or as part of a team, making up songs about the nest, using mathematical language about pattern and shape, writing words on leaves to describe the nest and so on.
Schemas are patterns of repeated behaviour that are often noticed in young children’s play. Not all children follow a schema, some follow one schema strongly and some may follow several at once. If a child is following a particular schema, then their interest is being engaged by this pattern of behaviour. If we observe a particular schema, then we can extend the child’s learning by developing activities for them based on that learning style. Again, the nature of Forest Schools allows us to support children’s learning in a way that stimulates them, i.e. by planning activities based on their schema. There are nine recognised schemas – trajectory, enveloping, enclosing, circular, transporting, filling, connection, rotation and boundary. An example of developing a child’s learning through the filling schema might be to provide various shapes and sizes of container to fill with natural materials such as leaves or conkers.
Howard Gardener’s multiple intelligence theory suggests that there are eight “intelligences” or “smarts”.
Gardner suggests that we are all intelligent, but in different ways. This means that if we teach and assess children using a limited approach, some children will come out badly. As Albert Einstein said,
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
If we can develop our understanding of the way a child learns best, then we can help them to learn more effectively and also more enjoyably. With young children, especially, this will mean allowing plenty of time to stand back and observe them as they play. Forest School activities provide us with plenty of opportunity to do this. It is essential that all the adults understand the importance of observation and do not try to intervene too soon. It is useful to have sticky notes available to jot down what has been noticed and small, laminated copies of the multiple intelligence definitions as a reminder.
Once we have identified children’s preferred learning styles, we can begin to develop the activities and resources provided to reflect these. We can also bear this in mind when asking questions or discussing things with the children. Often we will need to provide a wide variety of ways to approach something in order to cater for all learning styles. The outdoor environment provides us with everything we need to do this.
An example might be making a home for a small animal:
People Smarts (Interpersonal)
Maths/ logic Smarts
Self Smarts (Intrapersonal)
Working as a team to make the home....