Reimagining What’s Possible: Urban Outdoor Learning Spaces

This has been an exciting week for me as an educator. It’s nearing Halloween (one of my favorite celebrations of the year) and I am on my way back from Shenzhen, China.

What was I doing there?

I was presenting at the ACAMIS ECE Conference. ACAMIS is a group of almost eighty international schools in China and Mongolia and their early years conference was being hosted at Kekou International School in Shenzhen.


I and four other colleagues went to the conference to make two presentations.

Myself, Ann Marie Luce, the Elementary Principal of Canadian International School of Beijing and Silvia Jimenez, CISB’s Outdoor Learning Integrator made a presentation about creating outdoor learning spaces in urban settings.

Our school is smack dab in the middle of downtown Beijing, China and nature is something we have very little of. There simply aren’t many opportunities for young learners to get outdoors, take risks and be adventurous.

Since there were few opportunities for young ones to learn and inquire outdoors, we had to be creative and create these opportunities for them. This is an ongoing and ever-evolving process and we made a presentation to about 20 other educators about our journey.

Getting ready to make our presentation about outdoor learning spaces in urban settings. 

We had some wonderful and excited feedback from those who attended our session and it really made me feel even more excited to continue following my passion.

For those who know me, I have always been the “Bug Guy”…the “Bird Guy”….the “Nature Guy” at each and every school I work at. I have made it a serious part of my life to become an expert on the natural world. The critters that live in it, the plants, habitats and how everything is connected and interdependent. I have made it my mission to personally understand how human-caused climate change and other human impacts affect these creators and our future on this planet. I have also made it my mission to teach little ones to love and embrace the wonders of nature in hopes that they will grow up to love it and hopefully, take care of it.

Being involved in this project and having the opportunity to work with like-minded colleagues has been a great experience.

Being asked to present our narrative at a conference has also been fulfilling.

I restarted the CISB nature Club last week. Last year I had the chance to teach and inspire many young learners about the birds of Beijing and other wildlife and give them the knowledge about how even children can make a positive impact. I plan to do the same this year.

I have many ideas and goals for my little Nature Club this year.

I want to teach and inspire more students, but now there is something else I want to do. After receiving some very wonderful feedback from others at the ACAMIS conference who said that my passion for teaching this is inspiring, I want to do more to inspire other educators!

What can I do to light a fire under other teachers about conservation? How can I inspire them to take their students outside every day? What can I do to convince other educators that it’s okay to shorten a literacy block to get outside and crawl around looking for some ants…with their students? What can I do to convince my colleagues that being outdoors doesn’t always have to be about curriculum expectations, but simply about getting little ones outside of four walls?


My goals this year:

Get more kids excited about the natural world.

Get more teachers excited about it too!



About the Writer:

Kevin O’Shea is a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is an advocate for outdoor play and nature education.  He is the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast and is currently developing the Making Better Teachers Podcast!

Twitter: @MadForMaple


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