Outdoor Learning and Learning Outdoors

“The only difference between learning inside and outside is walls.”

Chief Samuel Sekeu, on his visit to Scotland in June 2015

The nursery class at Lomayan Primary School will be moving into a breeze-block building with a corrugated iron roof, but it will not be as cool as the shade of the tree, where pupils currently sit on a fallen tree trunk with a blackboard propped against the living tree, seemingly undisturbed by visiting goat kids.

In Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence promotes the value of Outdoor Learning. Pupils in Inveraray Primary, with Kenyan visitors Chief Samuel Sekeu and deputy head of Lomayana Primary Jeremiah Lebene, have recreated a Drovers’ camp in the school orchard.

In rural Kenya, classrooms are being upgraded from very basic structures of corrugated iron and wood, with earth floors, or even the shade of a spreading tree (above) to more permanent structures, including libraries and IT rooms, served by solar power.

Gardening and other activities are organised as after-school extracurricular clubs, sponsored by NECOFA Kenya, but within their daily lives pupils have significant exercise, some walking several miles to school and living very close to Nature in every way. Many rural children do chores after school such as herding animals and collecting water from the lake. Many schools in Scotland are now including a fifteen-minute run in the school day to combat lack of exercise amongst pupils.

School gardens: What can we learn from Kenya?

Many school gardens are large, contributing significantly to school meals. The gardens are run as after-school gardening clubs – the 4K clubs – rather than being part of the curriculum, as now happens in Scottish schools. The 4 Ks represent: Kuungana – to join together, Kufanya – to do or to act, Kusaida – to help, and the final K is for Kenya. The learning is reflected in science lessons in the classroom.

Gardening at Lomayana Primary: (1) The semi-arid school grounds at Lomayan had not had rain for nearly three years, growing mostly prickly pears and fever trees. (2) and (3) Water from the school borehole is used for watering deep drills made by a tractor to conserve moisture. (4) Jeremiah brings the 4K Club to his own garden to demonstrate water-saving and fertility building through inter-planting maize, beans and nightshade. His plot was a very impressive example of semi-arid horticulture, inspiring pupils’ families.

Gardening at Michinda Boys’ School: Michinda School Garden has an international reputation and inspired the Slow Food 10,000 Gardens for Africa campaign.The pupils who showed us around the garden were very knowledgeable about the different water saving and fertility building techniques in their demonstration plots, which included examples of urban gardening. Pupils from Michinda are boarders who often go on to work in other parts of Kenya.

“Participation in the school gardens project in no way harms scholastic achievement. On the contrary, our experience since 2005 has shown that of the 10 top students in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), there are always 4 to 6 who have taken part in many school gardens project.”

George Ng’ang’a, teacher at Michinda School.

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