5 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin Out of the Classroom

When you explore a book like Rowan of Rin in the classroom, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start. It’s an entirely new world - similar, but different to our own. There’s adventure and fantasy and relationships. And how can we make connections between all of that and the world that our students live in?

Finding real world connections and real world topics to explore can help our students gain a deeper understanding of both Rowan of Rin and how we can use books as a launching pad to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. Here’s 5 topics you can explore with your class to get you started!

5 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin out of the Classroom. A thoughtful and extensive blog post exploring Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and how teachers can extend learning outside the four classroom walls. A Galarious Goods blog post.

1. Plan a Treasure Hunt (or go searching with a map)

Rowan of Rin is a quest story which sees Rowan and several other villagers following a map to the top of the mountain to uncover a secret.

Working with maps of different kinds is a great way to get students learning outside. Students can create playground maps or use maps of their school to ‘explore’, or you may extend your learning to an excursion to a local park or forest area where you can continue to expand map using and map making skills.

One way to explore maps is to get students involved in orienteering activities. In orienteering activities, students use maps and compasses to reach checkpoints and race towards the end. While you may not have time to complete a full orienteering course, orienteering organisations around the world have put together some great teaching activities like this and this to give your students a taste of orienteering.

Students can also create their own treasure hunt for others to follow. They can begin with an existing map of the school or create their own from scratch. They can use trundle wheels to measure distance and include distances in their maps as well as written clues to guide the seeker to the next position. As students are creating their maps, they can learn more about mapping symbols, features and keys and apply this to their own maps. And - of course - when they are finished creating their maps, they can give them to their classmates to test them out.


2. Obstacle Course

Throughout Rowan of Rin, the villagers and Rowan run into a number of obstacles on their trip up the mountain. This makes the perfect inspiration for your own obstacle course at school.

Students can look through the novel to find 5-6 inspirations for their obstacle course, then brainstorm different ways they could create the obstacles. You may like to offer them a range of equipment they could use for their obstacle course, or ask them to be creative with sports and playground equipment and things like tape, string or elastic! Students also need to consider things like safety, how long it would take students to complete the course and whether they should offer different difficulty levels.

Once students have planned their course, they can set it up and test it with their classmates. They may like to introduce it to other students in the school as well, combining it with some retelling of Rowan of Rin so students who haven’t read the book can understand the context of the obstacles.

Students can also create maps, diagrams and posters of their obstacle course or take photos or video of students completing the course which they can share or present for others to enjoy.

3. Team Games

Rowan finds that he has to work with the others a number of times to get through the obstacles to the top of the mountain. Learning to work together is a great activity for school students and can allow them to reflect on the difficulties that Rowan and the others may have experienced as they worked together.

There are several team games which you can relate back to events in Rowan of Rin:

Tug of War
Rowan and the others have to work together in the swamp to stop each other from being drawn into the mud. They end up working together to pull each other out.

Students can work together in teams to ‘pull each other from the swamp’ through playing tug of war. To extend the challenge, students can be broken into four teams with 2 ropes intertwined to make a cross.

See What I Mean
Rowan misunderstands Strong Jonn’s feelings about him - a misunderstanding mostly caused by a lack of communication.

Students can explore the importance of good communication through playing See What I Mean. One person draws a picture using simple shapes. Another person describes the picture to the other students in the group or class who try to replicate the picture. The better the description, the better the drawings.

Another way to explore communication is through creating a simple obstacle course, and having students assist a blindfolded student through the obstacle course. The course can be slightly changed between students to keep the difficulty up.

As well as exploring communication, this activity also connects to the way Rowan and the others move through the cave and the tunnel on the way up the mountain.

Don’t Wake the Dragon
This is a really easy game with a direct link to the dragon in Rowan of Rin. In the original version, students work to line up from shortest to tallest - without making a sound and ‘waking’ the dragon. When they are all lined up, they simultaneously call out ‘boo!’ to wake the dragon.

To extend this idea, students can line up from oldest to youngest or in alphabetical order by their names.

4. Spiderweb

During Rowan of Rin, the villagers come across a forest filled with spiders and are required to move through spider webs to keep moving forward. Spiderweb is another team building game, but this one relates even closer to the book.

Students can work together to make a spider web by weaving string between two fixed places (the string can be held to the poles or trees or walls with tape). Holes should be made which are big enough to pass students through, and if you are going with the more difficult version of the game - there should be enough holes for every student in the team, plus a few more.

Students then need to work together to get through the ‘web’ without touching the web in any way. For the harder version, each ‘hole’ in the web is closed once a student is through it. Students ‘win’ the challenge when everyone is through the web.

Looking to take Rowan of Rin out of the classroom? Try some team building games to reflect on some of the difficulties of working as a team in Emily Rodda's Rowan of Rin. A Galarious Goods blog post

5. Book Walk

This is a really easy way to get students and Rowan of Rin outside. Students bring their books with them and take a walk to another place in the school. When they arrive, a student may read a pre-prepared section of their book, or the teacher can read a part of the book, or a few students can act out a part of the book. You may even organise to visit other classrooms to share a little bit of your book.

By taking students on a book walk, you can show them that reading is a wonderfully portable activity, and source a few new places in the school for reading to happen. And students can see that learning is never restricted to the classroom.

Have you participated in a Rowan of Rin activity outside the classroom? Share your experiences in the comments.


Four Simple Ways to Teach Nim's Island Outside the Classroom

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr is all about the adventures - and dangers - you can find when you get outside. Nim, her father and the author Alex Rover all head outside to learn new things and explore at one time or another. Here I have put together four Nim's Island related learning activities - encompassing a range of different teaching subjects - all of which can be completed outside the walls of the classroom. And they're almost certain to have minimal danger!

Four Simple Ways to Teach Nim's Island Outside the Classroom - Engaging, outdoor activities which explore events and themes of the novel Nim's Island by Wendy Orr.

1. Create an Island

(Teaching areas: mapping, geography, mathematics and possibly history)

For this activity you'll need some string, yarn or rope and a large space like a field, yard or oval.  You might like to use other marking tools as well, like hoops or cones, as well as measuring tools like tape measures and measuring wheels. Paper, pencils and clipboards can also be used. 

Use a large open space for students to create their own island. They might like to make it 'to scale' but unless you have a huge amount of room, it'll probably be reduced in size from a 'real' island. Use string or rope to mark the outside of the island and get your students to add any features they think the island needs, like hills or mountains, sources for water, land for growing crops, a safe place to shelter, beaches and forests. Have your students use different colour string or rope or other marking tools to mark out the features. This can be an opportunity to talk about the features of real islands around the world - which might include reefs, features related to volcanoes or things required as part of certain animal habitats.

When students have finished creating their island, they can map it. They may like to think about creating coordinates to help them map it or think about what mapping symbols they might use in their map. They can use measurement tools and talk about how big the island might be if it was twice as big or ten times as big. The creation of a map can lead to discussion of historical explorers and surveyors and what methods they used to create charts and maps as well as the work of modern surveyors. (One example of a historical surveyor is Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated the coast of Australia).


Tie it back to Nim's Island - How would Jack and Nim map their own island? How would Jack have known that it was the right island for them to live on? What features made it liveable?

Stuck Inside the Classroom? Create a miniature island using clay or paper or found objects. Draw a map of the miniature island, striving to keep it as accurate as possible. 

Create an Island - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods


2. Observe Nature

(Teaching areas: science and art)

For this activity students might like to use paper, pencils, pens, clipboards, magnifying glasses, cameras, reference books and collecting containers - or a combination of those! A garden or nearby park is also helpful

Take your students outside to observe the environment around them. They might like to take a close up look at trees in the school grounds or see what kind of insects or birds (or possibly bigger animals!). Students can simply observe, use magnifying glasses to take a closer look, take photographs or videos of things they find to investigate further later, draw or take notes about what they see or collect specimens to investigate or display. They can discuss what impacts humans have on the local environment, look at some of the techniques used by botanists or biologists and refer to reference books to find out more about their discoveries. 

Students can also take the time to sketch what they see when they are outside. They might like to create a drawing using the colours they see, draw a landscape or still life using nature as inspiration or investigate with the patterns they find in nature.


Tie it back to Nim's Island - Jack is a scientist and Nim helps him. What scientific methods and skills do we see in Nim's Island? 

Stuck inside the classroom? Break out the reference books, show documentary videos about nature and the work scientists do or bring some specimens in from outside for your students to explore and draw.

Observe Nature - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods


3. Nim's Island Obstacle Course

(Teaching areas: physical education, reading, problem solving, design)

For this activity you might need a range of physical education or games equipment as well as space and pencils, paper and clipboard for brainstorming or recording ideas.

Challenge your students to create an obstacle course covering the key events from Nim's Island. Students may like to start by making a list of those events, then thinking about what kind of movements, activities or interaction with equipment would best suit those events. They might work in small groups on different parts of the obstacle course, then come together to test it, or work collaboratively from the beginning. 

Students should think about how to lay out their obstacle course, which order it should be completed in and could reflect on how they would improve it if they had no limits on equipment. They might like to take pictures of different elements or create diagrams with instructions for participants.


Tie it back to Nim's Island - What do we know about Nim's health? What healthy habits does she have?

Stuck inside the classroom? See if you can source a hall or gymnasium and include more gentle movements. Or look for smaller movements which can be completed in the classroom, create a 'Nim's Island fitness circuit' and video the movements for participants. Students may like to use the videos to create a website or virtual classroom linking their fitness circuit back to the events in the book. 
Or - if you have access to robotics, create a Nim's Island inspired robotic course . . .  

Create an Obstacle Course - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods


4. Writing Outside

(Teaching area - writing)

For this activity, students just need a clipboard, paper and a pen or pencil as well as somewhere comfortable to sit.

A change in environment can be great inspiration for writers. Take your students outside and ask them to use their senses to be inspired to write something. They might like to explore poetry, fiction, a biographical piece about being outside or a report. Or you might like to offer some additional writing prompts or parameters. This can be followed up with a lesson back inside the classroom where students write pieces inspired by their classroom and compare their writing from both locations.


Tie it back to Nim's Island - How did Alex find inspiration and research information for her books? How would it have been different if she'd visited different locations around the world?

Stuck inside the classroom? Fill the classroom with outside prompts - videos, audio, items. You can get creative with this and choose different types of 'outside' (beach, forest, field, desert) or just look outside the classroom door.

Writing Outside - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods