The thought of outdoor learning in the city can sound like a real challenge for teachers, but in this article from UKEdMagazine, Kate Fisher shares the opportunities to behold, even though her primary school is in the heart of Brixton, London.
Extract from the May 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine. Article written by Kate Fisher @Christ Church School.
Christ Church Primary in the heart of inner-city London is a haven for outdoor learning which gives its pupils the opportunity to develop academic and social skills whilst embracing the natural world.
The one-form entry school in Brixton is fortunate to have a variety of outdoor learning spaces; from a wooded wilderness area, a roof garden with a pizza oven built by the children, a mud kitchen, vegetable garden, orchard and green house. All these resources provide an environment for our children to broaden their learning horizons and enhance the school’s curriculum.
Having so many children who come to us with various challenges, and a staff team who are passionate about outdoor learning, we began embedding the outdoors into our curriculum. Being a school located within the city, we have a strong belief that our children should be given the opportunity to experience the natural world outside. The Forest School learning environment provides many learning opportunities for children, as well as being accessible to all. The setting allows children to engage with the natural environment; it nurtures self-esteem, team building, confidence and an ability to form positive relationships with others. It also allows the children to take risks within a safe environment.
The Natural Thinkers curriculum was based upon providing schools and nurseries with a toolkit of activities that schools can implement in their own settings. It was devised with the aim that children from reception through to year 6 are given stimulating, engaging activities, linked with the curriculum, that are thought provoking and aim to link ideas with the changing seasons.
Jules Rogers, who leads the Natural Thinkers learning at Christ Church, coordinates and manages the activities within our school.
In order to become a natural thinkers setting, we have embedded ‘10 commitments to becoming a natural thinkers setting’, so that the children are provided with access to natural areas, plant and grow, tend to a garden, care for the environment, engage with weather and the seasons, as well as with wildlife, and be given access to the outside, with no child being excluded. This also provides a strong link to the new curriculum, which embeds gardening within the school day.
[pullquote]The benefits of our outdoor learning … have exceeded our expectations.[/pullquote]The benefits of our outdoor learning in Christ Church have exceeded our expectations. It has enabled many of our children to overcome various barriers towards school and learning. They have gained a new found confidence that has become visible in all other learning, and they have gained a fresh and positive outlook on their lives, as well as with the interaction they have with others. It has been truly inspiring to see how this has transferred not only to their learning within the classroom, but also to their attitude overall.
There still exists an attitude from some that ‘real’ learning can only occur in the classroom, and our challenge has therefore been to push the boundaries of this perception and change such beliefs.