Outdoor learning is a discrete curriculum area with no curriculum time allocated to it by the National Curriculum, therefore schools have found it challenging to fit outdoor learning opportunities into the curriculum on a consistent basis. This began to change in 2006 with the ‘Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto’, which provided a breath of fresh air for the educational agenda. The aim of this Manifesto was to persuade teachers to make the most of outdoor learning opportunities – the Manifesto states that “Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development whatever their age, ability and circumstances”.
- Ensure that their curriculum planning includes sufficient well-structured opportunities for all learners to engage in learning outside the classroom as a key, integrated element of their experience.
- Evaluate the quality of learning outside the classroom to ensure that it has maximum impact on learners’ achievement, personal development and wellbeing
- Ensure equal and full access for all learners to learning outside the classroom by monitoring participation in activities by different groups of learners and removing any barriers.
Our Outdoor Learning aims across the whole school at St Mary’s are to:
- Improve staff’s knowledge on outdoor learning.
- Promote the importance of using outdoor learning within other areas of the curriculum.
- Develop the children’s knowledge of the world – one of our curriculum drivers.
These areas for development will be addressed through:
- CPD training for all staff delivered by experts in outdoor learning – this will build confidence and skills and prepare staff for delivering similar activities and lessons to their children.
- Making clear and purposeful links to the outdoors within other curriculum areas. These cross-curricular links will solidify the learning experience for our pupils and promote more active engagement and participation within the lesson.
- Exposing pupils to further knowledge of the world around them; both on a local scale through newspaper reports, school newsletter and word of mouth as well as more global issues that are reported on through news programmes and accessing news stories and documentaries online. The knowledge of the world will be delivered to the children in a context that they can understand and will encourage them to talk more articulately and confidently about the world they live in.
At St Mary’s, we promote the use and enjoyment of the outdoor area on a daily basis through break times and extra-curricular clubs. Early Years have their own outdoor area, which caters for the needs of the children through the continuous provision provided in their environment on a daily basis. Themed days, such as sports day and educational visits provide an additional need to learn in an outdoor environment. This is now an area that we need to embed within our own setting.
We have recently reviewed and adapted the curriculum in all year groups to ensure that the learning is purposeful, relatable and progressive for our pupils. The key to personalising this curriculum and making it best suited to all pupils was to interweave outdoor learning opportunities into as many units and curriculum areas as possible. Through studying the National Curriculum aims and objectives for all subjects and Key Stages, links are now in place to incorporate outdoor learning into every classroom from September 2020. Outdoor Learning opportunities will be integrated into the curriculum starting with one lesson every half term and this will be monitored by subject leaders and reviewed with all staff.
Outdoor Learning can be used as a learning and assessment tool by all staff. The majority of assessment opportunities relating to knowledge of the world and the community (two of our curriculum drivers) is through discussion and the increased importance placed on pupil voice/photographs. These photographs and evidence of pupil voice will be collated on a half termly basis by subject leaders to monitor and showcase the outdoor learning that has taken place in every class during this time.
The success of our aims will be measured by the increased use of the outdoors and the teachers’ confidence in teaching in this way as they grow in their own knowledge and understanding as a result of the CPD training received. As a school, we strive to create concrete links to outdoor learning through other subjects. Knowledge organisers and concept maps created for each subject area will be critical in achieving this outcome across the whole school. As a result of increased curriculum time spent learning outdoors, children will become more comfortable and confident in this environment and will develop a natural curiosity and awareness about our world. The pupil voice documented in the St Mary’s ‘big book’ will highlight an increased awareness and understanding of the world by all pupils.