Distracted by Sunny Days and Sakura (Cherry) Trees

Throughout this post are photos from Thursday. A beautiful day in Japan. Warm, clear skies. Cherry blossoms at their peak. We returned from lunch to a cool, darkish room, prepared to finish out our day being super expedient. Exhibition is coming up in less than 2 weeks, and everyone had lots to do. I thought I would begin with reading, do some Math and then pound forward with Exhibition.

Math Under the Cherries

But the day was too nice, and the outside called. We grabbed notebooks, pencils and our read aloud book and headed to the park across the street. The students sat while I read them Kensuke’s Kingdom, a great book, and then they spread out among the cherry trees to dig into Math.

I always hesitate when going outside because I’m worried about focus. Students will get distracted, get off task. We won’t get finished what we need to do…

And…I’m right. Students do get distracted outside, but is that so bad? They did focus on their Math for a bit. When I walked around while students spread out to do their Math; they were discussing Math. Some were arguing about how to do the problem. Others were working quietly while letting their feet touch the small stream. Another group were looking at the sky and talking about why the numbers in their problem didn’t make sense.

Math Outside

They finished some, enough, but the day was calling. The boys quickly found out that the stream housed millions of tadpoles, and they spent time trying to catch them. A group of them played tag–a group, who in class, don’t usually socialize or partner together. Others were collecting sakura petals.

Found Tadpoles

Playing with tadpoles

Outside in the park, my class is always on fire. They run. They scream. They act like the 10 and 11-year olds that they are. They question. They try out new things. They act like scientists.  One time when we were out in the winter, the water fountain was covered in thin ice. Some students took the ice and watched it shatter. Some tested different weights on the ice.

Playing Tag

I’ve been reading a lot about Finland and why their education system is such a success. One idea that stood out to me about Finland was that elementary schools take an average of  75 minutes of recess a day. And that’s for unstructured play.

In a book I loved, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, Louv discussed a term he coined as “nature deficit disorder.” He advocates for unstructured play in green settings. In fact, in schools that had “green” playgrounds, full of garden spaces and dirt, studies found that kids related better to each other. They didn’t have the typical social problems so inherent on our blacktop playgrounds with limited play areas.

Every time we’ve been out, I see pure joy in the kids. I also see them bonding as a team, whereas in the classroom, they often clump with their groups of friends. Girls and boys are together playing tag or touching tadpoles.

When we came inside, students got back to work on their computers, finishing up their Exhibition project. They seemed happy. I enjoyed the fresh air. I know I’ll still hesitate to take the students outside, but we’ll go again because being distracted might actually teach us a lot more.

Enjoying Outside


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