Exploration and discovery in the great outdoors
We are fortunate to have the most fantastic outdoor space and a nursery and school full of children and staff who love to get out in the fresh air. To us, the great outdoors is just a classroom without walls and to this end we make great use of our 23 acres of private grounds.
Teacher Caroline Hubbard, a Forest School leader (Level 3), spearheads our outdoor adventures. She runs an exciting outdoor programme that incorporates the philosophy of Forest School. Sessions take place every week in Early Years and Key Stage 1, as follows:
- 1 hour session with Nursery
- 2 hour session with Reception
- 1 hour session with Year 1
- 1 hour session with Year 2
These sessions give our youngest children access to skills such as tying knots, snapping sticks, planting seeds and bulbs, flying a kite, as well as developing an awareness and respect for the natural world.
They also provide a non-competitive, supportive environment where it is not possible to go wrong. Children are encouraged to explore and try new things, building their resilience and self confidence in the process.
Outdoor learning for nursery children is directly linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and is very much child-led.
Mrs Hubbard said: “During the topic ‘People who help us’ we thought about who helps us outside. Off we went to find Richard our groundsman and learn about what he does. We wore high-vis jackets – just like Richard – and planted some trees and flowers.”
Outdoor learning is linked to class-based topics for Reception too. “Recently, pupils had been thinking about dragons so we took on the role of exploring an island where dragons live. We discussed why the dragons might be hard to find and then the children made their own camouflage dragons.
“Later in the session the children had the idea to create different hiding places and nests for their dragons. They played at visiting each other’s nests to learn about different flying techniques,” said Mrs Hubbard
For Years 1 and 2, sessions follows half-termly topics, such as a band of pirates discovering ‘Kingscourt garden Island’ and becoming shipwrecked. We use this as a cross-curricular learning opportunity by purposefully incorporating subjects including:
- Geography: mapping, finding directions, using compasses and landmarks
- English language: introducing topic-based new vocabulary
Nature-inspired trips and clubs
In addition Mrs Hubbard works with teachers of Years 3-6 to create ad-hoc opportunities throughout the year for outdoor learning linked to the curriculum. For example, a den-building topic has been developed for Year 4 as part of their Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education.
There are annual residential trips for Years 4-6 with plenty of outdoor adventures built-in and a weekly ‘nature explorers’ lunchtime club exclusively for Year 3.
We have developed a wildlife garden, we run conservation activities and an after-school ‘natural crafts’ club.