Increasingly, head teachers and senior managers in schools are spending their valuable time checking regulations to ensure their schools are compliant. One inaccuracy in their central single register can cause a flurry of activity and worry to check their documents. Whilst paperwork dominates in all areas of teaching whether it is planning, evaluating or assessing; the re-emergence of back to basics is featuring on the curriculum; spelling, grammar, times tables and best of all, an emphasis on outdoor learning is becoming prominent once again. Meaningful pursuits outdoors are thoroughly endorsed in the Early Years Foundation Stage. You may have heard of Forest school or Beach school? The curriculum is often in a state of flux but the inclusion of real life experiences in the fresh air is surely the way forward for children whose learning will go from strength to strength if they can touch, feel and see real life situations. Forest school aims to involve children in active learning, where they will take calculated risks, experiment and discover.
The philosophy is to encourage and inspire young people through positive outdoor experience; where the aim is to develop self-awareness, good communication skills, positive mental attitude, independence and resilience, motivation and an empathy for the environment. Young learners need regular opportunities to have hands on learning experiences. Unless they are able to formulate their own ideas through discovery and exploration we will have a generation of spoon fed children who have been filled with facts and figures for exams. We need pioneers; children who will want to discover for themselves and take more ownership of their learning.
Arming our children with inspiration and confidence will open their eyes to opportunity. Fresh air and open spaces are hard to come-by in the city, but a learning experience that can be taken out of the classroom setting can bring a lesson to life. Using the playground for maths lessons, for example, can bring the concept of multiplication tables to become meaningful. Some children just relish the chance to learn out in the fresh air; the chance to be able to move around as they discuss and discover for themselves. Passive learning is not beneficial for the student who is prone to lack concentration and active learning will bring them back to task far more successfully. The health benefits of course are immeasurable.
Schools are making changes to their curriculum so that children have more opportunities to learn about the natural environment. Gardening is a popular extra-curricular activity. Perhaps one of our young gardeners out there at this moment is tending and nurturing a plant that one day might be an essential ingredient for the next TINCTURE product of the future. Promoting exploration through active outdoor learning will benefit our child pioneers of the future.
Wendy Challen, Former headmistress of Garden House School with over 30 years experience in the education sector. Wendy now acts as a specialist education consultant.