Henley Beach Adelaide October 2010
During a lecture tour to Australia in October John worked with some teachers to plan and run some outdoor learning adventures.
The brief for us was to derive an outdoor learning adventure that would reinforce some of the work that students were doing in trigonometry – a scan of the online syllabus showed that Pythagoras’ Theorem was clearly in the frame.
We carried out a quick audit of site two days before taking a good few pictures so we could find five locations to hide the little plastic containers that would hold the learning challenge for each group. There was considerable potential in using the sea front with an outdoor meeting place (especially the small amphitheatre) with an open municipal power supply that worked! Next I went to my Google home page signed in and then went to Google Maps and chose the tab “my Maps” There is an excellent tutorial video to take you through the process of making a Google My Map
We then made a map of the local area with five location pointers one for each group. For extension work I drew two large triangles over the area using the pier/jetty as a long side. Each group would also receive a challenge to work out the area or the length of the hypotenuse on these triangles in addition to the challenge in their canisters.
It was simple job to connect a wireless router – the wireless network covered an area of 40 square metres. Students arrived with their own laptops as they are part of a year 9 cohort that had all been given their own standard PC laptops in year 7 (so now they are two year’s old and well used)
We set the students into five groups of 5, each group given their own positional marker in a Google map that I had created for the event. Using their laptops and with careful use of zoom and by switching on of the satellite view this was enough to get a fix within 5 metres of where I had buried the clues capsules. We didn’t tell them any of that of course! We ran two sessions for two different classes and each session lasted 90 minutes.
Once found each capsule contained a few props pencils, printout of the rudiment of geometry rolled up small and a challenge. One family came to the beach for a picnic and sat straight on top of one challenge canister – luckily I had a spare challenge to hand – otherwise all capsules were found
“Tell the story of Pythagoras’s theorem as a drawing with sticks in the sand”
“Conduct a radio interview with Pythagoras on the beach”
“Tell the story of Pythagoras through the eyes of Euclid or another contemporary
“Illustrate the theorem as an animation using materials found on the beach – led to a lovely seaweed enhanced version of the proof”
One of our key learning intentions was that the challenge would help transmute whatever students already knew (or found via a quick Google) into a product that demonstrated the beginnings of group moderated learning.
Each student could get their clues then groups either went to the beach to film or back to the 40 metre square wireless zone to research and publish results. They were given the responsibility to get their final work onto my laptop via Bluetooth or memory stick. We opted for a mix of online and hand- held clues this seemed to help share the load and introduced a nice variety with students having to move between the two sources.
Great activity ensued, areas of triangles researched online then worked out on scraps of paper, some students using the key in Google maps estimated the length of the giant triangles others paced out the two sides not in the water. Even the head teacher took some time out to come and see what the students were up to.
At the end in a quick poll 70 % of students said they now had a clearer idea if the theory and how they could explain it to others. Possible follow up work will be to adjust the map so that students can click on parts of the beach where they did their work and see the movie that they made. We finished with a celebratory look at Rosie my old dog who had a particular knowledge in this area
“That was great – can we do more learning outside?”
“How can we make our own maps?”
“Thanks for choosing our school”
“The search and the challenge were the high points for me”
Many thanks to Michael Shaw ( and all of the DECS team) and to the staff and Students of Henley High School for their positive “can-do” attitude they brought to the design and the adaption of the task
Want us to help run an outdoor learning adventure for you contact us here