You may have heard of Sharing Nature with Children author Joseph Bharat Cornell’s Flow Learning System. But did you know you can use it in the classroom also?
It’s been forty years since Cornell published Sharing Nature with Children as Dawn’s seminal book. Very early on in his career as a nature educator, Cornell discovered a sequence for games or activities that best captures students’ attention regardless of their age, mood, or culture.
While Flow Learning was originally designed for outdoor nature games, Carol Malnor, editor at Dawn, has tips from her own experience of adapting it for the classroom. Here are her suggestions for using it to teach math, science, social studies, language, and even art classes.
There are four stages in Flow Learning, and the first is all about harnessing the natural enthusiasm of your students. Brain education has shown that we retain knowledge when learning is meaningful, useful, fun, or emotionally relevant. Physical activity is often the key.
One suggestion for Awakening Enthusiasm in the classroom is to take Cornell’s successful nature games and adapt them for indoors. Owl and Crows is a great game for taking learning to a kinetic level. (Malnor’s tips for adapting it are here.) Other options include costumes or musical instruments as the starting point of a lesson. Games and unexpected surprises lets kids know that you want them to enjoy themselves while they learn.
Once kids are engaged, it’s time to focus their energy on the task at hand. Malnor recommends using all of the senses to gather kids attention. Circle rhythm clapping, scavenger hunts, clue games, and puzzle activities keep kids’ energy up, but their focus grounded.
Offer Direct Experience
In a classroom setting, the direct experience is the learning objective that the teacher wants to accomplish. Whether it is conjugating verbs or defining photosynthesis, students will benefit from the first two stages of Flow Learning and be able to take in and retain information.
Finally, sharing what students have learned is not only a great way to connect as a group, it also reinforces and expands on what has been learned. Malnor suggests skits, dancing, music, poetry, journal entries, art work, creative writing, and even written tests in addition to sharing verbally as a group.
For an example of a Flow Learning lesson plan, check out this free Teacher’s Guide for Dawn picture book A Drop Around the World. Or check out Malnor’s article, “Flow Learning in the Academic Classroom,” here.