This is part 2 of an outdoor learning review from Lucy Jenkinson at Grendon C of E. Lucy writes about the return to school and what outdoor learning looks like now.
Return to school
“____should take place outdoors wherever possible”.
With clear guidance from gov.uk, we were grateful for the warmer weather as windows became permanently open, outdoor-zones were allocated to each ‘bubble’, parents donated gazebos and all classes made the most of learning-outdoors. Year 5/6 took sole-use of the outdoor classroom by transforming it into ‘Hagrid’s Hut’ as an extension to their Hogwarts inspired learning environment.
Was it all plain sailing?
Pros – At the end of the summer term, OL was easily managed due to the small numbers of returning children behaviour and safety were easily managed
- As full classes returned, teachers found creative ways to over-come barriers. E.g. Introducing children to their new classmates/teacher on the playground, socially distanced – chalk drawings of buddies, mirroring-games etc
- Grass zones with outdoor resources saw less behaviour issues, child-led exploration, new opportunities daily, purposeful play etc.
Cons – resources were shared between bubbles/zones limiting the amount and usage
- interactions, communications and sharing of ideas between staff lessened
- the outdoor-classroom was zoned for Year 5/6 (con for the rest of the school, a pro for Willow class!)
- outdoor zones became extremely muddy and wet during winter months; not ideal for play/lunch times!
What does outdoor learning and our zones look like?
- YrN/R – outdoor classroom used for free-flow learning opportunities throughout the day
- Y1/2 – outdoor play zone: the grass. Opportunities each break and lunch for den building with stacking pallets, bug houses, diggings, excavation holes, hoops, hammocks etc. Children change into wellies.
- Y3/4 – outdoor seating used as an extension to the classroom with a grass area for play and lunch
- Y5/6 – use of outdoor classroom as an extension to the learning environment, used for small group work/interventions. Science and maths continue to be planned for with groups often working outside and using the hideout, but the range of activities and opportunities such as using larger resources, grass areas, the park and local country-parks are less due to COVID restrictions
Pupil Voice Year 5/6
Can you describe a memorable lesson that you have enjoyed outside recently?
Maths Easter egg hunt, Coke and Mentos in science, WW2 history in the hideout
School is a little different since COVID – do you think you’ve been outside more or less?
More because of lessons like singing and music being outside but less because the weather isn’t good this term
Which resources do you use when you are learning outside?
Pencils, whiteboards, sticks, stones, chalk, clipboards, leaves, stones, metre sticks and rulers
Restrictions, barriers and opportunities
COVID has seen the loss of many outdoor experiences such as whole-school skills days, residentials and most evidently the space that a playground provides for children of all ages to mix and enjoy playing together.
Whilst these experiences have been truly missed, other outdoor experiences have taken their place. We have seen children walking daily with their families and interactions sparked within bubbles facilitated by simple outdoor resources. Most importantly, the pandemic has prompted a national recognition of the positive impact that discovery, experimentation and connecting to/engaging in the natural world can have on children’s learning. It may look a little different right now, but outdoor-learning continues to be considered invaluable within our school’s curriculum.