Our Outdoor Learning and Forest School Curriculum
Outdoor Learning is a right of every pupil in our school, it isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a way of teaching. At Offham Primary School we aim to use school grounds and local areas to enhance teaching and learning right across the curriculum. We know that these opportunities deliver a wide range of associated benefits, including promoting children’s social and emotional skills and their engagement with learning.
Outdoor learning is ‘active learning outside of the classroom’ and aims to encourage and inspire children through positive outdoor experiences. Much research has been done on the impact of Outdoor Learning across the curriculum and on pupil’s personal, health, social and emotional wellbeing. There are considered to be five main benefits:
Increasing knowledge and understanding,
Changing attitudes and behaviours,
Health and well-being benefits,
Benefits to schools, teachers and the wider community.
At Offham Primary School, Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners. Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves. During Forest School sessions at Offham, we aim to deliver activities and opportunities to build on and support the children's relationship and experiences with nature, their independence, self-discovery, confidence, communication and, above all else, raised children's self esteem..
The ethos of Forest School is based on a respect for children and their capacity to initiate, investigate and maintain curiosity in the world around them. This learner-lead environment creates a nurturing meaningful experience where lifelong skills are developed. Forest School believes in a child's right to play; the right to access the outdoors; the right to experience risk in a controlled way in the natural world along with the right to develop their emotional intelligence through social interaction, building a resilience to enable creative engagement with their peers and their potential.
Well-being is at the core of Forest School and all sessions should provide opportunities for holistic development of all involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.
Forest school expands the children’s learning of the natural world, and how they as individuals can have an influence and impact on the world today.
The Forest School approach has many proven benefits such as allowing children to:
- Develop self-regulation skills.
- Cope with and learn from failure.
- Build resilience (the skill of coping with risk and failure).
- Gain a sense of achievement.
- Increase motivation and concentration.
- Improve problem solving.
We plan activities to fit the seasons and topics of learning within the school, with each class taking their learning outside at least once a week – EYFS and KS1 take their learning outside daily. The outdoor environment is an effective and stimulating place to learn. Regular outdoor learning encourages children to engage with nature and brings a host of benefits in terms of health, self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation. The outdoors, also provides excellent opportunities to use a wide range of skills and abilities not always relevant in the classroom. These can be presented as building on existing outdoor play, transferring activities normally carried out indoors, school garden projects and environmental exploration. During outdoor learning sessions children are given positive opportunities for active learning, the outside environment can promote skills of enquiry, problem solving, communication, co-operation, creativity and evaluation.
At Offham Primary School, we aim to give all children an insight into the ethos of Forest School every week for at least 1 hour.
Forest School builds on a child’s positive attitude to learning, offering them the opportunities to take risks, make choices and initiate learning for themselves. The Forest School learning environment provides opportunities for children to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, to form positive relationships with others, to develop a growing awareness of their emotional needs and the needs of others, to learn to cooperate and work with their peers and adults and to develop strategies in order to take risks within the boundaries of safety. Forest School is about exploring and experiencing the natural world through making choices.
The child can access the forest at their own level. The recapping of previous skills and knowledge allows access for all. The child-initiated approach gives a greater level of understanding and engagement. The children are actively choosing appropriate equipment or tools that they need. The progression document guides teachers in planning and delivering activities that allow for the children to build on previous learning and develop new skills. This is underpinned with the adult repeating the same safety rules, identifying boundaries, emphasising the importance of safety and making links to learning new skills.
As a result of outdoor learning opportunities being woven into our curriculum offer, children at Offham Primary School will have improved health, wellbeing, education and engagement in school.
As a result of attending regular Forest School sessions, children will grow in confidence as a result of the freedom, time and space they are given in their learning. This allows them to demonstrate independence at each individual child’s rate.
The children will begin to understand, assess and manage their own risk and safety. This will allow the children to become more independent and show them that life comes with not only risk but also rewards. It also teaches them what their own limits are and that they can push through them. They will see that sometimes we don’t always get the desired result the first time but that doesn’t make us a failure, it helps us to grow. Forest schools encourages problem solving, logical thinking and self-reflection and evaluation.
Activities such as sharing tools and participating in play, help teach the children to work together as a group, which strengthens their bonds and social skills. The review time at the end of each session allows time for this self-reflection and for all children to share their successes.
The sensory experiences provided by Forest School helps prompt language development. A vaster vocabulary that is learnt in situe, in a hands on experience. The adult can play a role of just observing, coming along side, modelling, supporting or encouraging.
Children develop an interest in the great outdoors and respect for the natural world around them. The changing seasons and weather offer a wealth of interest and opportunities.
We measure the impact of our curriculum through the images and videos of the children’s practical learning and talking to the children and their parents about their learning during Forest School sessions.