Intent

We aim to use the outdoor learning facilities that the school has to offer to enrich the children’s in-school learning and provide hands on experience.  Teachers plan to use the outdoors to create engaging and varied learning experiences.  This includes the use of trips and visitors that are linked with and enhance the curriculum.

At Oaklands, we are lucky to have brilliant access to outdoor areas including the woods, pond and year group gardens.  A vast range of activities are planned around these areas including observing life cycles in pond dipping and weekly gardening in small groups.  We also pride ourselves on using the outdoors across the curriculum to inspire learning and create memorable experiences for the children.  We use the outdoor space as inspiration for writing and as a practical resource in Maths.  Using the outdoor spaces enables the children to discover Science first-hand and reach their own conclusions.  

By the end of Year 6, we want the children to feel comfortable outdoors and exploring their environment.  They should respect their environment and understand current issues around it. 

Implementation

Our range of outdoor spaces are used by all year groups.  The woods include an opportunity to observe the woodland habitat and offer an alternative reading space.  The pond is visited by each year group once a term.  This enables children to see both seasonal changes and observe life cycles. 

Children take part in small group gardening sessions once a week for a 20-minute slot.  Each child will take part in a gardening session at least twice a year.  These sessions are run by an ex-pupil’s grandfather, who is a passionate gardener.  He engages the children in his sessions while teaching them about the skills required to maintain a garden.  He runs a yearly competition where each year group grows their own potatoes, and they are weighed to decide a winner.  He also grows pumpkins to contribute to a Wellington College competition.

The outdoor space is used across the curriculum.  It is used for Maths as a resource for outdoor investigations and to practice formal written methods using chalk.  Science investigations often take place outside and children learn from their surroundings in topics such as animals and habits.  Geography fieldwork is completed both on site and as part of external school trips such as Year 5 measuring the width, depth and speed of the River Pang.

During COVID-19 lockdowns all children completed outdoor learning activities during their afternoon foundation sessions.  They reported that they enjoyed these activities and produced a range of work including artwork using natural materials and building dens.

Further staff meeting time will be allocated to ensuring teachers are confident to take their classes outside and ideas for how best to do so.

Impact

By the end of Year 6, Oaklands Junior School children:

  • Show support and collaborate with other children in outdoor learning experiences
  • Can explain current issues around the environment and propose how to tackle them
  • Actively choose outdoor learning experiences.
  • Can design and complete investigations and fieldwork in their local environment.
  • Confidently communicate with unfamiliar adults
  • Describe life-cycle changes in a variety of living things in their local environment including the pond.
  • Understand the basics of gardening and what is required to grow plants for both food and decoration.

Outdoor learning is supportive of those with SEND needs as it provides opportunities to see learning in a different way rather than only being classroom based.  From pupil voice we know that our SEND children enjoy spending time outside and actively choose outdoor experiences.

Teachers and support staff formatively assess outdoor learning against our Oaklands mindset.  This includes whether children are independent in their use of outdoor space and whether they are showing enjoyment when outdoors.  The knowledge gained from outdoor learning is assessed within the science curriculum.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, children thrived with outdoor learning activities and pupil voice indicated that these were tasks they enjoyed.

As exposure to outdoor learning takes place across the school, we hope that children will both enjoy and respect the environment around them.

Next steps

Increase staff’s confidence in taking lessons outdoors through staff meeting time.

Continue to develop our outdoor learning resources including expanding the garden and including a bug hotel.