Humans use all their senses to experience the world around them, but when students are asked to observe something, I've noticed they tend to focus on sight alone. For this reason, students need opportunities to focus on using their other senses for observing as well.
The famous fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, once said, "I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see." Even Sherlock seems to focus on sight, but he also realizes that observation is a skill that can be learned.
Helping students to hone their senses of touch and hearing in the outdoor classroom is a good place to start. It is amazing how much they are able to notice when mindfully paying attention to the sounds and sensations around them.
There are many great activities that lead students to practice their observation skills. All of the curriculum highlighted in past eNewsletters have some observing component. Below are some prompts that promote listening skills.
LEARNING TO LISTEN (10 minutes)
Ask students to be still, close their eyes and listen to the sounds around them. As they are listening speak the following prompts aloud every few moments:
Listen for . . .
Sounds that are loud.
Sounds that are quiet.
Sounds that are constant.
Sounds that are there and then gone.
Sounds that repeat themselves.
Sounds that are far away.
Sounds that are nearby.
Sounds that are high-pitched.
Sounds that are low-pitched.
Sounds that are above you.
Sounds that are below you.
Sounds that seem to be calling back and forth.
As a group, share some of the sounds that you heard. Were there any sounds you couldn't place? What did they remind you of? What kinds of information did the sounds we heard tell us about this place?
Sound Mapping, Fox Walk, Bat & Moth, and Dawn Chorus are other activities that promote listening skills. Check them out in this lesson.