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Outdoor Learning

"The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky" - Margaret McMillan

Subject Leader: Adele Mahoney

Link Governor: Anna Edwards

Vision for Teaching and Learning: Memorable experiences, memorable impact

Learning outside is undeniably exciting. It allows teachers and pupils to engage with teaching and learning in new ways: some value the space, the ability to move around more freely; others a fresh perspective, ‘real-life’, first hand learning or simply the calmness bestowed by nature. 

Whatever their personal connection, our pupils see outdoor learning as an enhanced learning experience. At Christ Church, we are committed to enriching this outdoor learning experience and our hope is to inspire the learning of new knowledge and skills, in both curricular and character-based lessons.

It can be easy to overlook the value of learning outside, but today more than ever and following the challenges of extended lockdowns, we are energised in our commitment to ensure pupils can have the opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge in an engaging, fun outdoor setting.

Our wish is for pupils to leave Christ Church well equipped with life-long practical and social skills, with memorable insights into curricular concepts, and to develop personal interests and a sense of community.

Specifically, we teach two purposeful outdoor lessons every half-term, either character building and or as part of our curricular lessons. We offer:

  • An exciting character and team-based learning program, called Arbojo. Pupils develop positive social and practical skills, such as collaboration, leadership, resilience and growth mindset. Skills are taught through practical, outdoor team challenges.
  • Real-life, hands-on, memorable curricular learning experiences to enhance knowledge and skills. These lessons are part of our curriculum learning and are often cross-curricular. We look for opportunities to engage pupils in learning through purposeful outdoor experiences, which will enhance their understanding of a concept or provide the ability to practise a skill, such as exploring natural habitats or observing growth in plants over time.

In addition, we offer:

  • The opportunity to develop practical skills and personal interests, through our Life Skills gardening lessons as well our gardening club, Little Green Fingers. 
  • The chance of developing a sense of community, through collaborative enrichment projects such as developing our Wilderness gardens working alongside our wider school community.

Vision for our outdoor environment

To deliver high-quality outdoor learning, we are mindful of creating ‘destination’ outdoor environments, where teachers and pupils want to be. Our vision, over time, is to:

  1. Create eco-classrooms within our infant and junior playgrounds
  2. Create gardening zones within our infant and junior playgrounds
  3. Create all-weather outdoor classrooms at each site
  4. Enrich the use of and learning experience at our junior field

1. Eco Classrooms

We have a Wilderness Garden with a pond at our infant site. In 2021, we ‘opened up’ this ‘secret garden’, to create a visible, integral eco-classroom for all pupils.  Our aim is to restore our pond and wilderness garden to its heyday, so all pupils have the ability to explore flora and fauna up close.

Parent Volunteers and our PTA help to maintain the garden and in recent years have constructed some large-scale bug hotels. In 2022, we intend to plant new shrubs and climbers to the garden, as well as continuing to develop the pond life - flora and fauna. 

At the juniors, we have a small natural area within the playground, which is in much need of a ‘make-over’. Our aspiration, is to provide our junior pupils easier access to nature, during play and or as part of lessons. We are working with our PTA to revamp this area, which is a medium-term project.

2. Gardening Zones

Junior and infant sites have some static wooden planters as well as access to moveable planters, compost and good quality gardening tools. The junior field offers potential for an allotment patch.

In 2021/22, we added Gardening to our Life Skills program for Years 1-6.  Throughout the years, pupils experience and explore a variety of ‘gardens’: wildlife; flower & herb; and fruit & vegetable.  Our aim is for all pupils to develop skills and knowledge of planting, aftercare and harvesting, as well as how to look after and encourage wildlife into our gardens.  We have developed a comprehensive gardening scheme of work including progression of skills, using the RHS Campaign for School Gardening resources as inspiration. 

Little Green Fingers, our gardening club for young gardeners (presently infant pupils) launched in Summer 2021.  It is a very popular club, which is run with the help of parents.  At present, the club is offered to Year 1&2 pupils, with limited places, and it is our hope to be able to launch a similar club for junior pupils.  In recognition of setting up and running our club, we were awarded our RHS Level 1 Campaign for School Award in December 2021. 

3. All-Weather Classrooms

We would like to install outdoor all-weather classrooms in both playgrounds and at the junior field. Ideally, each classroom would include seating for 30 pupils and possibly a fire-pit.  These all-weather classrooms will be a longer-term project due to funding.

4. Enrich Learning at the Junior Field

The junior field has trees and shrubs around the periphery of the field and in previous years we invested in cost-effective seating area for one class (using ‘free’ tyres and purchasing builders’ planks), but currently there is no shading or shelter, toilet facilities, storage or interactive zones. The field offers a fantastic outdoor space for teaching and learning and its development is a mid to long-term project.