Learning outside the confines of a classroom has a range of benefits including exposure to a range of natural environments which in turn enhances physical, mental and spiritual health. It raises sensory awareness and an appreciation of the wider world around them.
Being outside of the classroom removes the barriers and expectations of school and can have a calming effect on individuals, especially those with additional needs such as ADHD or anxiety issues. Having the space to roam, run and make noise is very liberating.
Environmental attitudes are created as children take an interest and ownership of their sites and the world around them. Weekly sessions allow them to access sensory learning throughout the seasons and help to raise confidence and self-esteem levels by allowing them to learn independently and as part of a team.
Outdoor Learning promotes development in all areas and produces learners who are more resilient, confident and independent. It helps to develop the physical, emotional, social, cognitive, linguistic, and emotional Intelligence of children creating well rounded holistically developed learners.
Risk taking is a big part of learning and if children feel safe, the learning will have a deeper meaning and create a memory linked to that experience.
In our Wildlife Area we have an outdoor classroom, pond, fire pit and a log circle. This allows classes to go over and use the area in a variety of ways such as science, Forest School and art. As we have increased the bio-diversity of the area, we have seen an increase of new insects visiting during the summer months. We are extremely lucky to have newts in our pond which we have watched grow over the past year.
Trips & Visits
Before the pandemic struck, every class had the opportunity to go on a school trip every half term. This gave the pupils the chance to have new experiences out of their local community.
The start of the year would see the whole school visiting Lea Valley for the Countryside Live event which celebrates the rural way of life and allows the children to try arts and crafts such as willow weaving and candle making from beeswax. The end of the year would give Year 6 pupils the opportunity to go to a residential activity centre and learn a host of new skills while they problem solved their way through daily challenges.
Eco-Teams are a great way to allow the children to represent their views and give them a voice on issues that affect the school and local environment. Making a positive impact on the environment is the overall aim and this year we shall again be working with the Green Project to reduce the school’s Carbon Footprint. We also had the opportunity to merge with the Eco-Team from Coppermill School.
Differences we have made so far are:
- Introduced a recycling system for batteries and paper.
- Recycle rainwater and create our own compost.
- Grow our own organic vegetables for the school kitchen.
- Provided habitats for bees, minibeasts and birds.
- Planted trees in Walthamstow Wetlands, St James Park and the local community.
- Cleared the local area and park of litter.
Just over three years ago we began a small school garden which was so productive that we needed more space and so then acquired a plot on the local allotment. This has given the children the opportunity to grow their own food from seed to plate. The school kitchen receives the crops as they are ready and during the pandemic crops were sent instead to the local food bank.
Pre-pandemic, we regularly held community days so that families from the local community could come together to maintain and socialise on the plot. Scarecrows were made, raised beds created and families were able to meet in a safe and relaxed environment.
The school has previously worked alongside OrganicLea and pupils were able to acquire a certificate in organic gardening. In recognition of our hard work, we have received a 5 star rating from the Royal Horticultural Society (R.H.S.) and also ‘gold’ in the Green Tree Award from the Woodland Trust.
Forest School Skills
At Barn Croft we are very lucky to have a range of sites to choose from for outdoor learning. These include the local park, nature reserve, allotment and our own Wildlife Garden.
The aim of these sessions is to teach children new skills for part of the session and they then initiate their own play opportunities for the rest of the session. A typical session may involve wood craft, art, tree climbing, shelter building, fire making, wildlife related activities or simply chilling out under a tree. It is about the child addressing their own needs at that point in time.
They learn to work independently and collaboratively, increase their problem solving skills, resilience levels and emotional and social development. They grow confidence to take risks and use their imagination to generate play opportunities.