An engaged student is a good student. In fact, without engagement, a student is unlikely to learn anything. Even worse, that disengaged student is likely to become a disruption or a distraction.
Fostering greater engagement can be accomplished in a number of ways. One of the best of these is to hold a class outdoors. This doesn't have to be a nature study. Disparate disciplines like literature, music and mathematics all may see greater engagement when they are taught in the great outdoors.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that doing lessons in nature actually can improve later engagement in the classroom.
Why not put the findings of these researchers to work for you? Hold a music class outdoors, and see what kind of dividends it yields.
More About the Study
The research involved third-grade students from two classrooms. Approximately half of the biology lessons in each class would be taught outdoors on a nearby lawn throughout the school year. The other half would take place inside the traditional classroom. Lessons focused on identifying different types of leaves and learning about the process of decomposition. When indoors, children were presented with natural items like soil and leaves, and outdoor sessions were run like regular classroom time without free play or student interaction.
Students were given a short break at the end of each session, then instruction continued inside with ordinary subjects like reading and math. Teachers were asked to assess the students' level of engagement. The results were astonishing. When students completed an outdoor biology lesson, they were far more engaged in the following indoor instructional period. Factors like different seasons, different hours and different teachers did not appear to have an impact on the results.
The researchers were surprised by how much more engaged the students were after an outdoor class session. Even more stunning was the fact that the outdoor lessons didn't involve hiking or going into any wilderness areas. A simple location switch was enough to bring about the change.
Nature Can Restore
People lead so much of modern life indoors that it is easy to forget just how restorative being in nature can be. Spending even a short amount of time in nature may:
- Reduce stress
- Enhance the functioning of the immune system
- Restore attention
- Increase self-esteem
With these science-backed benefits, it begins to become clear why kids might demonstrate better engagement after spending time outdoors.
In fact, this latest study actually builds on earlier studies that had findings such as:
- Being outdoors increases student interest
- Intrinsic motivation may receive a boost from being outdoors
- Information retention may improve with outdoor learning
- Kids like school better when it is conducted outside
The authors of this latest study say that it helps to have an open-minded teacher. Some instructors initially are apprehensive that attention will deteriorate when outdoors rather than improve, but the findings of this study and others suggest that the opposite is true.
Take Your Music Class Outside
How can you move your music lessons outdoors? It's probably easier than you think.
For instance, consider having a campfire singalong. There's no need to have a real fire, just a ring of flashlights or tea lights will do the trick. Get creative with some tissue paper to create flames, and you have everything you need. Gather some benches, logs or other seating around the fire then lead the kids in a few campfire songs while you strum the guitar or ukulele.
Once your kids are familiar with some campfire songs, schedule a day when they can tour around campus, singing their favorite songs at the windows of the first-floor classrooms. Think of it as Christmas caroling outside of the holiday season.
Another great idea is to take the classroom's ukuleles, recorders or other instruments outdoors. Add a few songbooks, and your class is ready for an open air concert.
Everyone loves to go on a picnic, so get out your blankets and take your students outdoors. Fill a basket with some fake or toy food to complete the theme. Suggested songs to sing and play include Teddy Bear Picnic and Going on a Picnic.
Get a few bottles of bubbles for this next outdoor activity. Ask kids to take turns blowing bubbles, then singing at them to change their contours. Have the kids switch and see which sounds cause the bubbles to move in different ways.
Get Up and Move
Of course, your outdoor musical adventures don't have to focus solely on singing or playing instruments. How about enjoying a few sessions of folk dancing. Circle folk dances are always fun for kids, and many of them are very easy to learn. Some of these include the Old Brass Wagon, Noble Duke of York, Los Machetes and the Basic Appalachian Circle Dance.
Remember, if your students are new to folk dancing, try to stick with dances that have about four moves for younger learners and no more than six moves for slightly older students. You can always go for more complicated folk dances if your students really love learning them.
You also might want to consider involving a variety of props in your outdoor learning. After all, there is no need to worry about knocking things over or breaking anything like there is in the classroom.
Gather some jump ropes and teach the kids some fun rhymes. Next, ask them to jump rope to the beat of the rhyme. Have them play with jumping faster or slower to see how the rhythm changes.
You might also involve a book like Possum Come a Knockin' by Nancy Van Lann. This story with a song can involve small instruments, body percussion and more. It's perfect for performing outdoors. Another wonderful book option is Baby Rattlesnake by Te Ata.
Do a little research online to find beat games that can be played with a basketball or tennis balls. With a Bluetooth speaker, this is an easy lesson for the playground when you want to emphasize rhythm and beat.
Try taking a drum outdoors to engage the kids with some quick-reaction activities. Place a few hula hoops around on the ground. As you play beats on the drum, have children skip, walk, tip toe and do other movements. When you stop playing, the kids have to jump into the hoop. You can play this as an elimination game with players being "out" when they fail to jump inside a hula hoop in time. Start removing a hula hoop with each round.
Play a Game
Most music instructors play many games with their students throughout the school year. Any of these can just as easily be enjoyed outdoors. Some favorite options include Chicken on a Fencepost, Acka-Backa and Cut the Cake.
Encourage Kids to Listen
Sometimes you don't have to do anything at all. Simply ask the kids to listen. How long can they keep it up? Time them, and then ask them to name all of the things that they heard. Bonus points if you bring along some instruments and try to replicate the identified sounds using the instruments.
As an alternative, ask kids to wander around the playground, picking up any items that might make a sound. Encourage them to work in small teams to build an instrument or create a new sound with the items they discover.
Find New Inspiration with Prodigies
Are you in need of even more ideas and inspiration for increasing the engagement of your music students? Maybe you're looking for a way to incorporate more technology into their learning or want to find even more ways to bring learning outdoors.
Either way, Prodigies has plenty of inspiration waiting for you. Our innovative online lessons are designed to be engaging for learners of all abilities and interest levels. Fun and colorful, these lessons are a wonderful way to introduce the basics of music to young minds. Start browsing our offerings today to find the inspiration you seek.