“Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability and circumstances.” – Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto (2006)
At Eagley we are blessed with very interesting grounds and believe in the important role that outdoor learning can play in providing a broad and balanced education for our children.
Why take learning outdoors?
Outdoor learning is readily acknowledged as an essential part of education in the Early Years – surely this need doesn’t magically stop when a child turns 6 years old?
So what are the benefits for older children?
Supports the Every Child Matters agenda:-
- Health – children are physically active in their learning. Furthermore there is a body of research on the mental health benefits of time spent engaging with nature.
- Enjoyment – children generally see the ‘outdoors’ as a more enjoyable place to learn
Safety – Tim Gill, a leading expert on play and risk, highlights the problems of creating ‘cotton-wool’ children in his book ‘No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society.’ Outdoor learning can introduce children to risk in a safe manner and involve the children themselves in assessing risk.
Positive contribution – a greater awareness of nature and the environment around them will lead to children valuing these more and be informed when making future decisions.
Engages multiple intelligences – a physical, hands-on approach to learning involves a greater use of a variety of intelligences which in turn enhances learning. Howard Gardner, who originally proposed the concept, added Naturalistic Intelligence to his original list of 7 intelligences – this intelligence relates to understanding the natural environment.
Supports a cross-curricular approach to learning – by creating links and relevance to learning.
Nature Deficit Disorder – this term was coined by Richard Louv in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ where he laments the growing disconnection between children and the natural world and the consequences thereof. In 2012 the National Trust commissioned a review of research conducted about this issue and the report (Natural Childhood by Stephen Moss) highlighted the positive impact engagement with the outdoors has on children’s development.
Finding their ‘Element’ – Creativity guru Ken Robinson talks in his book ‘The Element’ about the importance in people’s lives of finding their element, which holds the key to their own creativity and success. How are children going to discover their
element unless they are exposed to a broad range of meaningful experiences and challenges?
Children ‘come alive’ outdoors – experience has shown that many children who find it difficult to feel a sense of achievement in the classroom or are disengaged in ‘traditional’ lessons engage much more deeply and behave much better when involved in learning outdoors.
Education should go way beyond simply acquiring the knowledge and skills of individual subjects as proscribed by programmes of study. There is a hidden curriculum, much of which centres round character development that is of equal, if not greater importance. Outdoor learning promotes:-
- Problem solving
- The 5 (or 7) Rs – resilience, risk-taking, reflection, resourcefulness, relationships, responsibility, reasoning
- Engaging the 3 Hs – Hands, Head, Heart
- Physical challenge
- Development of social skills
- Discovery and exploration
- Sense of belonging
How do we promote outdoor learning at Eagley?
Forest School – Year 6 experience regular Forest School sessions run by a Level 3 practitioner. Activities are closely linked to topics covered in the classroom in order to deepen understanding and can include shelter building, 3D sculpture, environmental art, tool making, stealth, investigating trees, problem-solving, games of trust, use of senses, map-making, storytelling, understanding environmental impact, technology, links with the Infant School, science, literacy, maths, geography, art, D&T.
Residentials – we believe it is important to give the children opportunities to experience adventurous activities and live away from home for a few days with their peers. For the last five years Year 6 have spent 3 days at Robinwood Activity Centre in Alston on a traditional adventurous activity holiday. Recently we decided to move this visit to Year 5 and from
June 2015 Year 6 will be spending 4 days at Whitby Youth Hostel with a focus on history, art and geography.
Geography – staff have received training on taking learning outdoors through the use of fieldwork. Examples of outdoor learning include:
o An 8 mile walk around the local moors and reservoirs to develop a sense of place.
o Visits to Scout Moor Wind Farm and Raikes Lane Thermal Recovey Unit to look at sustainable energy, electricity generation, waste and environmental impact.
- Yr 4 walk to Bradshaw Brook to investigate rivers
- Yr 4 visit to Clitheroe by train as part of their contrasting locality study.
- Yr 5 Bolton Town Trail and Bromley Cross study
- Yr 3 litter and traffic surveys of the immediate area
All of these visits form the integral part of subsequent cross-curricular work.
Art – we look at the work of Andy Goldsworthy and engage in environmental art. We have also undertaken 3D sculpture work and in the long term plan to develop an art trail through our grounds.
- Our grounds offer a range of different habitats including an orchard, wild meadow, woodland, wetland, log piles, bug hotels and the pond which offer a diverse range to explore and investigate mini-beasts and habitats
- Yr 4 visit the Ribble Discovery Centre at Lytham to investigate the contrasting habitats of a mud estuary and sand dunes.
- The rich plant and tree life in our grounds offer opportunities to look at life cycles, flowering plants, seed dispersal, adaptation and classification
- Investigations on forces, friction, properties of materials and chemical change take place in our grounds.
- Design & Technology
- Den building
- Knot tying
- Mallet making
- Use of saws, knives, axes, billhooks, draw knives, shave horse
- Constructing bridges
- Making fire
- Investigating wind turbines
- Constructing a Celtic village
Eco Schools – as part of our aim to become a Green Flag school we have developed habitats, conducted regular litter-picking sessions and compost school dinner waste in our Ridan composter.
Community Involvement – in November 2013 we held a tree planting day when over 200 saplings were planted by a group of parents, children and Bolton Conservation Volunteers. A team of parents are also helping to develop our vegetable patch and will be helping children to grow food.
Creative Partnerships – in 2011 class 6L worked with a film-maker to create a series of training films for teachers and children on various aspects of outdoor learning including birdwatching, pond ecology and use of literacy outdoors.