Bradford Schools Reveal Benefits of Outdoor Learning


LEARNING outdoors can have many benefits for children. Five schools that incorporate outdoor learning into their curriculum explain what it means for them.

Children in primary schools owned by Priestley Academy Trust – Westbourne, Atlas, Margaret McMillan, Lilycroft and Green Lane – learned in outdoor classrooms year round.

They have partnered with government-funded Nature Friendly Schools and mental health charity YoungMinds to develop and improve the best use of their outdoor space for the well-being of their children.

“We prepare and grow plants and vegetables from fall to spring, then spend the summer harvesting and cooking our favorite crops in our cooking zone,” a spokesperson for Westbourne Primary School told Skinner Lane. “We understand the seasonality of crops and the good taste of fresh food. ”

The outdoor classroom is used to help young people understand plant reproduction and the life cycles of plants and animals.

“We have an insect hotel which is great for exploring. We are fully equipped with rain boots, raincoats and gloves to be able to go out in any weather. Students gain confidence and independence, improve their social and physical skills and become young citizens interested in their local environment, resulting in a change in the care of the local area.

Lilycroft Primary School on Lilycroft Road has two small areas where children plant fruits and vegetables. They have a variety of flower and vegetable beds made from recycled sleepers. They also have access to nearby Scotchman Road housing estates.

The Forest School sessions take place at the Farcliffe Children and Family Center in their small wooded area.

“Each week the children work with an expert gardener. Forestry school sessions include the creation of mini beast habitats, use of tools, construction of dens and safe fire lighting skills, ”said a spokesperson for the Forestry School. ‘school.

“Children have developed their confidence, social skills and communication skills by interacting with nature. Outdoor learning has benefited children who have behavioral difficulties and social and emotional difficulties.

“Teachers are seeing improvements in social skills and behavior. They also see children developing more confidence in class discussions.

“The young people learned how to take risks safely, for example, how to start a fire safely and also how to put out a fire safely. Outdoor learning covers everything from languages ​​and math to art and computing. It also helps with persistence, confidence, and problem solving.

Thanks to the JU: MP project, funded by Sport England, the school purchased an outdoor coat for each child.

At Margaret McMillan Elementary School in Scotchman Road, Heaton, students and staff appreciate the outdoor environment.

“We have a large outdoor space but unfortunately no school grounds, so we have to maximize what we have and use the surroundings,” said a spokesperson for the school. “The outdoor environment is a feature of all of our learning and we go out in all weathers. ”

Each year the group has an educational visit to an outdoor environment, and years four, five and six have residential trips.

Teacher Sarah Johnson said: “It is really important that our children have the opportunity to learn outdoors: it broadens their horizons and arouses their curiosity.

“We have Lister Park, Heaton Woods, Nell Bank in Ilkley and the Yorkshire Dales on our doorstep. Further afield, older children have the opportunity to thrive in a different environment – to stay on a tall ship in Scotland and visit an outdoor center for a week in the Lake District.

Children are extremely enthusiastic about their learning outdoors: Student Awais Habeeb recalls “racing with poles along the river to see how fast the river flowed and creating dens was so much fun – ours was the biggest ”.

Rahil Shahid said: “I loved the animal scavenger hunt at Nell Bank.”

Outdoor learning offers many benefits for children. “We want them to develop healthy habits throughout their lives that the great outdoors provide: developing social skills, cooperation, collaboration, independence and resilience. The benefits for emotional well-being are also even greater in these uncertain times, ”said a spokesperson for the school.

Forest School coordinator Sam Riley works with all groups throughout the year to deliver a variety of outdoor skills and has certainly noticed a difference. “I have seen an improvement in the confidence of children who are normally shy and calm in class – these are the children who normally lead the team building activities. I have also seen an improvement in the children sharing the equipment during our classes and working together uninvited. ”

Margaret McMillan’s receiving playground features a dirt kitchen, tunnels, hills and a variety of surfaces that help children develop balance and gross motor skills.

Teachers linked outside of school to all areas of the curriculum. “We know this offers a great benefit for emotional well-being,” the spokesperson said. “Our gardening groups provide valuable opportunities to learn where our food comes from and years two and three like to learn to ride a bike – we have a fleet of bikes. Dr Bike also goes to school to repair and maintain children’s bikes to make sure they are safe. The school also uses resources through the Trust, such as the climbing wall at Green Lane Primary.

The Atlas Community Primary School in Lincoln Close, Manningham has outside resources including home gardens, market garden, earthen kitchens, woodland gardens, fire pit and open-air castle. Forestry school sessions take place throughout the year, regardless of the weather. “We use the weather as a learning resource and provide children with waterproof clothing and rubber boots,” a school spokesperson said. both in their indoor kitchen room and around the outdoor fireplace. They also sell fresh produce grown on site from their market garden to parents. An open-air design and technology workshop gives a real context to the construction and promotion of products. Students learned skills such as growing organic food, preparing the soil, harvesting, outdoor cooking, fire safety. and the use of tools. They liked to discover the plants, the mini-beasts and the birds. They took part in teamwork and regained their self-confidence.

“Children thrive being outdoors – lessons such as math can be taught outdoors using resources that can bring learning to life and involve children without them realizing that ‘they are taught,’ said a spokesperson for the school. “In such situations, children who are less confident can thrive because they don’t feel the same pressures as in a classroom situation.

“We teach kids to keep trying, to never give up – sessions like Forest School are great for building that persistence to be achieved, which then leads to connections in other lessons.

“By giving children hands-on experience, like real tools, they are able to develop their physical skills – fine and gross motor skills – by building muscles in their arms and hands, which has a positive impact on others. skills such as writing. ”

Green Lane’s outdoor facilities include a field, a subdivision with a pond and a wooded area under redevelopment. A peace garden is being developed, as well as a sensory garden with fragrant plants – a space for quiet contemplation.

Students have access to bicycles. Offsite activities including gorges scrambling, caving – the school has a man-made cave system – walking and forest schools, with trained staff.

“Working outdoors improves and develops all areas of skills, including social and emotional resilience,” said a spokesperson for the school. “It encourages children’s ability to work as a team and work together to solve problems.

“It teaches how to make calculated and safe choices, not to be risk averse, to take up a challenge safely. He teaches life skills and first aid.

“It improves physical skills, including gross motor skills, balance, hand-eye coordination and strength, especially in the early years.”

In all schools, teachers report improved social skills and behavior after outdoor sessions. They also see children developing more self-confidence in the classroom.

“Sometimes lazy and sleepy kids just need a session outside to leave them invigorated and happy, leading to better learning behaviors throughout the day,” said a spokesperson for Atlas.

“In addition to presenting fewer health risks, outdoor learning has helped children stay active, engaged and happy.

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