Our Journey – Developing Outdoor Learning in KS1

05/03/2020

We are incredibly excited to bring you our second guest blog post! We met Charlotte when we visited her school to deliver one of our outdoor workshops. There was an instant connection & we finished the day feeling like we had just witnessed something very special! Charlotte and her team have an air of positivity and a deep passion for learning. So we decided to ask her to document their experiences over the last half term. In this blog post Charlotte shares how she has led her team to change the learning styles in Key Stage One & incorporate more outdoor learning into the curriculum . . .

I’ve been a KS1 teacher since graduating in 2011 and in September 2018, I moved to my current school to fulfil the position of Key Stage One Lead, overseeing the teaching and learning for 3 classes, a straight year 1 and 2 class as well as a mixed year 1/2 (my class). For the first year, we taught both Year 1 and 2 formally, “bums on seats” as some people call it. I knew this wasn’t what was right for our children so, in January 2019, with the support of my SLT, I began researching continuous provision in KS1.

After attending a day at St John’s C of E School in Bradford, I knew it was the way forward for our school and most importantly for our children. We were given some funds for new resources/furniture to create natural, inviting and exciting classrooms. 

Fast forward to September 2019; our classrooms are all set up with natural, engaging, environmentally friendly resources. Our children foster a love of learning and become inventors, investigators, team workers, creative thinkers in the environment. Plus, most importantly, they are developing resilience, perseverance and the skills they need for the future. 

Inside was working very well. As a team we reflected on the approach weekly; bouncing ideas off one another and continually making our provision more effective. 

But, outside was another story… 

The opportunities children had to learn outside was minimal. We have a wonderful, large outdoor space with undercover areas, a gated nature area, sheds for storage, a large playground and much more. But it was unused and looked like a dumping ground. Children occasionally learned outside but this involved taking their indoor work outside. I knew this was not what outdoor learning should be, and so we began to tackle to problem.

As a team we tidied the area up and managed to source some crates, tyres, poles and some amazing off cuts of wood from @outdoor.classrooms. As well as some of their amazing den building fabric; all of which we use for construction opportunities. We managed to clear out a storage shed which we used to store daily outdoor equipment such as; chalks, clipboards, paper, pens, paper, books, small world toys and much more. We also timetabled for children to access outside every morning during continuous provision time. 

We saw some great things outside! The children’s natural curiosity has led to learning around how much rain has fallen overnight, role-playing campouts, creating stories and much, much more. However, as teachers we weren’t seeing the effectiveness of outdoors during lesson times as much as we had hoped.

That was until we had an inspiring visit from Alfresco Learning.

Jenny and Hollie worked with all of the 90 children with their engaging workshop on The Great Fire of London. Even though the day was cold, the huge smiles on all of our children’s faces made all of the teachers realise and understand how much our children loved being outdoors.

I’ve never seen muddier hands! The activities throughout the workshop were so creative, we wouldn’t have ever thought of them. Plus we loved the way it made our children work collaboratively. It inspired us and gave us the confidence to take more risks and teach outside more often.

Following the workshop, we straight away opened up a small nature area in our outdoor provision space. We ensured there were magnifying glasses, spotter sheets and binoculars available at all times for the children to use. We have since witnessed the children engrossed in their own curiosity; whether it’s looking for worms, finding insects or just taking time to look at the trees.

Another task was to plan weekly outdoor learning for our core subjects. Last term, our theme was based around the story – Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis. With the support of Jenny and Hollie, my amazing KS1 team came up with so many ideas to immerse our children in the outdoors. 

The very first thing we did was go outside and explore our larger nature area; which has an incredible pond. The children were so excited to find the pond area, look in it, find the beetles and search for a Bog Baby. It really opened up our eyes when one child was bouncing up and down and said:

“I’ve never seen a pond before, this is so exciting!”

We realised that some of our children have little opportunity to explore the outdoors and to have first hand experiences of observing the beautiful world around us. 

The children loved looking at our pond, discovering what the ‘green stuff’ was, as well as searching for a Bog Baby. We took our English lessons to the pond to encourage the children to use their senses and become familiar with the Bog Babies’ habitat. The children loved pond dipping – unfortunately, we didn’t find any creatures but the children were amazed at how clear the water was. 

Eventually, we found a Babble of Bog Babies! 

Each class brought a Bog Baby back to the classroom and we began designing and creating a home for him. Children built Bog Baby homes out of sticks, leaves and other natural materials. The Bog Baby was very clever and wrote letters to the children explaining what he liked in his habitat, so over time they improved their own habitats. But the children soon realised that Bog Baby needed to be back in its natural habitat with its family. 

We continued exploring animals and their habitats, where animals live and did many hunts and searches throughout our school. Who knew there were so many living things on the school field? Our children learned the importance of looking after nature and animals and to treat everything with respect and care. 

The learning, which took place last half term was incredible.

The knowledge that was embedded through first hand, exciting experiences could never be replicated inside the classroom. Our children are now constantly looking at the little things around them, seeing new life grow and questioning changes around them. We are so proud! 

Following on from the success of last term, we now have an extra box on our planning sheet for outdoor learning opportunities. So far this term we have spent even more time learning outside and our goal is to have quality outdoor lessons outside at least twice a week! 

If you enjoyed reading Charlotte’s guest blog post & would like to follow along with Key Stage One’s journey please follow their inspiring Instagram pages @exploring_year1_2 and @teachingyear2.

Thank you Charlotte for sharing this special insight into outdoor learning at your school! If, like Charlotte, you would like us to visit your school to inspire you & your staff to get outdoors more often, you can find out more about our workshops and training here!

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