Outdoor Learning at Chalford Hill Primary School
“I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand”
Recent studies have highlighted benefits of outdoor learning for young children as:
• Higher levels of conversational language.
• Greater independence.
• Improved health and sleeping patterns.
• Greater physical competence and agility.
• Improved time focus on activities and more concentration.
• A greater understanding of nature and the environment.
• Improved social skills, involvement and initiative.
Learning need not take place solely within educational buildings. Exploring and making sense of the world around us is a crucial part of childhood that often provides the most memorable and meaningful learning experiences.
At Chalford Hill Primary School, we are committed to Outdoor Learning and are very proud that all our children enjoy regular curricular and cross-curricular Outdoor Learning opportunities within both our school grounds and our locality. Over recent years, we have seen for ourselves how the outdoor environment offers motivating, exciting, different, relevant and easily accessible activities for Reception through to Year 6.
Opportunities for Outdoor Learning exist within and across all curriculum areas and help to develop personal and social skills, communication, problem solving, thinking skills and teamwork as well as English, Mathematics, Science and other curriculum areas.
At Chalford Hill, we try to use the outdoors as an extension of the classroom, another space in which to deliver our curriculum. The aim is to find the best space to bring our learning objectives to life, whether this be the playground to learn maths, the pond to discover pond life, the outdoor classroom to enjoy stories and circle times, the woodland to unearth mini-beasts, the canal and viaduct to learn about transport links in the past, the park to explore forces, or residentials to further develop personal and interpersonal skills. The use of the outdoors should be meaningful and add to the learning.
Our journey started back in 2012 when we carried out training in Pembrokeshire and as a result were the first school in England to be awarded ‘Outdoor Schools’ accreditation.
In 2013, the Woodland Trust used our Year 1 class as a case study to show the positive impact of outdoor learning on pupils and awarded us with the Woodland Trust Bronze & Silver awards.
From here, all staff undertook training and met regularly to share ideas and good practice and to review the impact on learning and in 2013 Ofsted reported that: ‘The school provides numerous stimulating and exciting learning opportunities, especially outdoors’.
Through close links with the Woodland Trust, WWT at Slimbridge, Westonbirt Arboretum and the Stroud Valleys Project, we were able to continue to move forward with our drive for high quality Outdoor Learning opportunities. As we gained confidence and expertise, we were able to host two hugely successful Outdoor Learning Conferences in 2014 and 2015 where we offered high quality training to other local schools. As a result of our continued commitment to Outdoor Learning, we were delighted to have been chosen to be a beacon school in the WWT Learning in Natural Environments Collaboration.
Once well established as a leading school for Outdoor Learning, we joined together with a cluster of local schools, who were also confidently moving forward in order to provide one-another with support, expertise and training.
Where we are now…
Outdoor Learning is well established and is part and parcel of our curriculum delivery and our whole school ethos REACH, it is not an add on but a means of teaching and learning in meaningful contexts.
As well as obvious opportunities such as PE, there are regular outdoor learning activities in each year group.
Much of Reception’s learning takes place outdoors; the Early Years curriculum requires the children to have free flow access to their outdoor learning space at all times. Our outdoor space addresses all areas of the EYFS curriculum. YR are also fortunate enough to visit a local woodland on a regular basis to further develop their learning, independence and to foster curiosity and discovery.
Y1 visit a local woodland every other week to do art, problem solving, maths and science and have very much enjoyed capturing the badgers on a night camera they set up. They also make much use of the locality, learning about what village life was like in the past, visiting Abnash Barn, France Lynch Church, the allotments and orienteering around our school grounds.
"I love being outside with my friends exploring and learning." Oscar
"It was brilliant when we discovered the badgers' sett." Jacob
"I love searching for minibeasts and seeeing them up close." Emilia
Do maths and phonics work outdoors on a weekly basis as well as science or theme work including launching rockets, art lessons and cooking Indian food on the fire pit in the garden.
"If you learn outside it's fun and if it's fun you normally learn better." Tommy
"You can draw on the ground and make big things because there's more space so it doesn't matter ifyou make a mistake." Esther
"It helps your observation-finding and detective skills" Joe
Y3 Learn about light and shadows using the playground to draw and measure their shadows. They have visited the park to freeze-frame illustrations from 'Voices in the Park' by Anthony Browne, have used Ipads in the garden to take photographs of God's creation to support R.E work and have enjoyed cooking pizzas on an open fire in the woodland. Tamsin Bent from the Stroud Valley Project also comes in to run Science sessions on fossils, plants and seed dispersal.
Enjoy taking their maths out onto the playground and have had great fun in the mud creating Viking camps and wattle and daub walls.
"We went on a march; jumping down the waterfall and into the enchanted forest." Freddie
"We started to make a den until we had raiders then we scared them off." Laurie
"It was really fun when we made our own camps in the woodland." Saffi
Y5 visit the woods to build shelters as part of their Homelessness topic and do much of their Science work outdoors with Tamsin as well as regular circle times and stories in the outdoor classroom.
"It's exciting to find out what's going to happen when the plants are fully grown!" Finn
"I like the outdoor classroom because we can all sit in a circle - and don't have to sit on the grass!" Evie-May
"I can't wait to see the finished produce of the plants." Dominic
Learned about adaptations of animals by searching for bugs in the school garden with Tamsin and enjoy a residential trip to Viney Hill where they take part in a range of outdoor and adventurous activities and team building exercises. They also enjoy drawing from observation the landscape and plant life in our garden.
"Learning outdoors gives you a sense of 'freeness' that you can't get in the classroom." James
"I love learning outdoors. It's nice to be in the fresh air and you get to learn about the things around you." Imi
"It's helpful to learn 'for real' as you can use what you find to explain things in Science." Oliver
We are also incredibly fortunate to have such a rich outdoor environment on our doorstep, which includes a local woodland that YR & Y1 visit fortnightly and that the whole school has access to. In addition we have a committed team of Governors and parents who regularly support different year groups in their outdoor activities and who continue to work hard to ensure that our school garden, outdoor classroom and woodland areas are well maintained and resourced.
We work with outside agencies to support our delivery and CPD for teachers, including Tamsin Bent from the Stroud Valley Project who regularly works alongside class teachers to deliver Science outdoors.
Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime. Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. Learning outdoors can be enjoyable, creative, challenging and adventurous and helps children learn by experience and grow as confident and responsible citizens who value and appreciate the natural environment.
To see more of what’s happening across the school in Outdoor Learning, please enjoy our photos and iMovie library by clicking on the photos below:
Y1 go on a Badger Hunt
Y2 make Chapatis
Y3 become Great Artists
Y5 create Woodland Art