“Outdoors is unique and special. It offers children and young people the space to grow, be active, develop and embed skills and discover aptitudes. Outdoors, children have freedom to move, be creative, be risk-takers, build resilience and develop responsibility and independence.”
Outdoor Learning recognises that the outdoors is an essential part of life, integral to the development of the whole child. It not only focuses on subject knowledge but ties learning together through teamwork, cooperation and confidence. Outdoor Learning aims to develop self-esteem, cooperation and creativity as well as inspire pupils to achieve their full potential to provide them with the skills for life-long enjoyment of the outside world around us.
To maximize the positive impact that outdoor experiences have upon children, they should have access to frequent, continual and progressive experience of outdoor learning within a range of environments and weathers. Lessons should be regularly planned for so that they can be taken outside.
At New Milton Infant School, the children are given opportunities to enhance and deepen their knowledge in all curriculum areas, through outdoor learning opportunities. For example, linking science and habitats whilst collecting and identifying mini beasts and linking geography when mapping these habitats around the school.
Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a way of teaching. It is possible for school grounds to be used daily to enhance teaching and learning right across the curriculum, and to deliver a wide range of associated benefits, including promoting children’s social and emotional skills and their engagement with learning.
It is important to ensure that no one is denied opportunities to learn outdoors and every effort should be made to spot and overcome barriers to participation as early as possible. These barriers will be different for different groups of individuals but could include, for example, communication difficulties or physical disabilities. Planning may require dialogue with individual participants or the need to seek advice from those specialising in supporting equalities groups to ensure that all learners can access the curriculum.
‘All aspects of the curriculum can be explored outside. The sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors, the closeness to nature, the excitement most children feel, the wonder and curiosity all serve to enhance and stimulate learning.’
At New Milton Infant School we aim to offer many opportunities for learners to deepen and contextualise their understanding within curriculum areas, and for linking learning across the curriculum in different contexts. Learning outdoors has a solid foundation within our Early Years settings and we aim to produce planning across the school, which will deepen the children’s knowledge of curriculum areas and allow them to make links in their learning. When outdoor learning experiences are embedded in the curriculum, this cycle of learning will occur naturally. In the light of outdoor learning becoming more regular and frequent, current practice will evolve as more use is made of school grounds and local areas. The school grounds are often the first step in taking the children outdoors and younger children, in particular, can explore, and develop a sense of ownership of their school grounds in their own time on a daily basis.
Through implementing outdoor learning, the children will become active in their learning, they will gain increased motivation and enjoyment of learning, they will build confidence in themselves, their characters and develop life skills, and the children will develop an awareness of themselves and the environment.
Ofsted recognises that: ‘When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development’ - Ofsted (2008) Learning Outside the
Classroom: How far should you go?
Outdoor learning provides fresh settings for children and young people to demonstrate what they know and can do and therefore for assessing their knowledge and skills. Assessment of learning in different outdoor contexts can provide opportunities to vary levels of challenge appropriate to individuals’ needs and abilities across a broad range of personal, interpersonal and practical skills. Diverse practical contexts and high-quality interactions, immediate and constructive feedback and time for reflection contribute to the breadth and depth of assessment processes.
Through pupil conferencing and questioning, we will confirm that the impact of our outdoor learning provision is resulting in:
Children who have an increased motivation and enjoyment to learn
Children who are confident and resilient learners
If careful and thought about planning is put in place for outdoor learning, the children will receive a broad and balanced curriculum which will increase outcomes in all subject areas.