Introduction

Enjoyment is the birth right of every child. Children learn better when they are excited and engaged – but what excites and engages them best is truly excellent teaching, which challenges them and shows them what they can do. When there is joy in what they are doing, they learn to love learning. Excellence and Enjoyment (DCSF-2003)

Our outdoor learning initiative aims to foster children’s love of learning. At St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School, we believe that all children have the right to experience the unique and special nature of being outdoors. We further believe that it is important to enable children to use the outside environment as a context for learning.

Rationale and aims

We believe that the outdoor learning environment has much to offer children. It can provide relevant, engaging experiences that support learning in all areas of the curriculum. These can be presented through building on existing outdoor play, transferring activities normally carried out indoors, school garden projects, environmental education or off-site visits. It puts children into a real life learning context where they can apply skills learnt in the classroom to specific investigations and this links with our Project Based Learning initiative.

Direct experience outdoors is powerful, motivating and has impact and credibility. The results from outdoor learning can be instantaneous. It invites active and engaging styles of teaching, which cater for a range of learning styles, ultimately having a positive impact on behaviour.

Through skilled teaching, outdoor experiences readily become a stimulating source of fascination, personal growth and can lead to breakthroughs in learning.

Active learning readily develops the learning skills of enquiry, experiment, feedback, reflection, review, communication, problem solving, an enterprising attitude and cooperative learning – to name only some of the benefits.

Outdoor Learning can help to bring learning alive. For this reason the outdoors can have an impact on all areas of the curriculum. Outdoor learning also provides experiential opportunities that allow pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities as well as providing opportunities to manage risk and cope with change.

Furthermore, our Outdoor Learning initiative is closely linked with Forest Schools, which further enhances the children’s learning experience. The Forest school ethos encompasses practical activities in the natural environment. These are designed to promote the development of self-esteem and emotional intelligence, which lead to improved self-confidence. This powerful approach enables young children to be independent, self-motivated, courageous, and considerate and sets them up for lifelong learning. There are many important issues to be considered here. Ultimately we aim to remain true to the Forest School ethos and approach.

Objectives of Outdoor Learning

  • To raise the profile of Outdoor Learning.
  • To empower children to take ownership of their learning, allowing their minds and bodies to thrive
  • To encourage children to develop the skills to solve problems, and become resilient and reflective learners
  • To develop skills of communication, cooperation and collaborative learning.
  • To provide a challenging, safe and secure environment within which children can take and manage risks.
  • To encourage close links with parents and the school in celebrating our outdoor space and the rich learning that can take place within it.
  • To encourage children to care for their environment.

Health and Safety

At St. Vincent’s we will support children in taking risks within a safe and secure environment. Pupils will be taught to manage risks. It is important to ensure that the outdoor environment offers challenges and teaches the children how to be safe and aware of others. Outdoor learning opportunities will be grasped when available and teachers will assess risk. The schools’ policies relating to Health, Safety and Risk Assessment should be referred to and applied prior to any outdoor learning activity that may require additional support.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Assessment of the children’s learning will be valued equally indoors and outdoors and should be part of the same process.

Managing the delivery of Outdoor Learning

Through the monitoring of teaching and learning e.g. forward planning meetings, classroom observation, teacher’s self-evaluations and other school procedures we closely monitor the use of outdoor learning as a key element of the learning experience at St. Vincent’s. We provide support and professional development to enable staff to feel confident in developing their expertise and knowledge base to adapt practice to include opportunities for learning beyond the confines of the classroom.