Featured

Welcome to Outdoor School

This is the post excerpt.

This outdoor learning blog has been created for you, whether you are a pupil, parent, governor, teacher, or member of the local community interested to join in and share your thoughts, ideas, and responses to the wonderful learning happening at  Therfield First School . This summer term we are introducing outdoor learning across the key stages, not as an ‘add-on’ to the curriculum, but as learning that starts from real-life experiences and situations that require meaningful responses that develop into cross-curricular learning.

Our aims include:

  • Deepening children’s knowledge and understanding of how the natural environment, and in particular, how plant life contributes to human life
  • Connecting children to their local area to inspire authentic learning experiences and responses to the environment about them
  • Providing opportunity for all to inform the curriculum content and environment outside the classroom
  • Becoming skilful and reflective in problem solving, developing key countryside citizenship skills
  • Developing further our knowledge of teaching and learning with the environment, further defining our role as educators in the outdoors.

In achieving these aims, we are fortunate to have on our doorstep Greys Farm, home to 500 acres of meadow, and listed as a charity called redlist revival, which is committed to ensuring the survival of ‘red listed’ species identified by the UK Government.  We share in the ideal that children and their educators should become informed of approaches to outdoor school that sustain active community involvement, and approaches to living, benefitting the local natural environment, and improving our attitudes towards the world we live in.

The views that are expressed in this blog are those of individuals, and myself as a teacher at Therfield First School, and in no way express the views of my employer.

You are all welcome to engage in this summer term’s learning journey of discovery.

Alixandra Marschani

CIMG1190
View of part of a meadow – March 2017
CIMG1211
Scope for learning – April 2017

Outdoor School – read all about it!

The latest edition of our local paper the Royston Crow (20.07.17) contains a super spread on this term’s wonderful outdoor learning at Therfield First School including the presentation at Greys. In case you do not receive a copy or can’t get hold of one in town, please click on the link to the article below.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Royston_Crow_20_7_17

Bringing it together

IMG_0858
We were here!

Asking a class a question can mean many answers all at once. Here are a few comments from Duckpuddle when given a speech bubble to write their best moments from Outdoor School:

‘I like the mud kitchen, Bat and Moth, and marshmallows with a bonfire’

‘I loved getting mud on my face! I loved making mud pies … I LOVE GETTING MUDDY’

‘I liked the mud kitchen because I like cooking. I like cooking marshmallows because I like the taste’

‘I liked peeling the elder’

‘I love being a countryside citizen because I like the wildlife around me’

‘Cleaning the mud kitchen’

‘I enjoyed having fun! And being in the outdoors. I love the outdoors’

‘I loved picking the potatoes and eating the marshmallows’

‘Everything’.

For myself, as a practitioner, it is normal to be evaluating what worked and plan for the term ahead. I was delighted with their responses – clearly eating and having fun were key, but a lot more went on than immediately appears to the reader of these comments. My surprise was my own acknowledgement that I had used the interactive white board so much less than in other schools for the usual YouTube clips of gardening, etc. This was because I became reliant upon the immediate environment (the school grounds and Greys) responding to what became available as the season progressed, and how the children used these as affordances for learning. My emphasis upon developing citizenship as a way to allow children to own their locality and affect change responsibly was not limited to just outdoors – it had an interesting consequence for class work indoors too. On one occasion I provided everyone with a photo of their craft work and asked for their own written descriptions and explanations for choice of materials and its purpose. True to outdoor pedagogy, I chose not to dominate the interaction but permitted expressive explanations with no end answer, including no marking or correction from myself. This can be challenging in practice, however, the result was that this writing exercise sparked a conversation style whereby children took the lead and asked each other about their work. They listened to each other and commented and helped each other. No one was left out. I cannot think of any better example of what citizenship and democracy in action can mean to young children. Clearly there are moments for this interaction style during more structured curricular activity too.

The work so far has permitted a notion of stewardship to develop. Our initial aims included deepening the children’s knowledge of the natural environment with its attendant benefits to human life. I would add from my conversations with parents, that this includes you too! We most certainly connected our learning to the local area, and in terms of citizenship, connecting locally meant meaningful ownership of realizable actions to affect positive outcomes to encourage wildlife and plant life in our homes and gardens and school. Much of this action was possible because of the concentrated effort to instil a countryside citizenship code which has enhanced an awareness of good behaviours outdoors.

The next stage is to move from the value of stewardship to democracy with the need to become truly reflective in problem solving, and with shaping the Outdoor School curriculum. This will be next term’s focus.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome as always. Thank you.

All join in

Friday morning was spent outdoors. A whole term in meant we knew how to cope with whatever came our way: weather changes, muddy clothes, tools in the nettles, needing a drink, sharing tools, taking just what you need, remembering our rules and countryside citizen code. We all join in and leave the area as we expect to find it next time for ourselves, and the wildlife and plant life that share it too.

Activities were on a rotation. One group started to harvest the potatoes we had planted, and this included washing and storing them in box to share out later on. Every child took a few potatoes home with the request that they make something from the potato and tell us next week. The second group was introduced to the fine art of whittling – using a peeler to remove elder bark and smoothing until white. The aroma was wonderful, the activity calming and the technique easy to grasp. Some moved onto more challenging sticks of greater length. We talked about making fence posts, wands and whistles. The self-sufficiency of the group meant I could leave them to encourage the potato gathers to weed the meadow area a little. The last group enjoyed the mud kitchen! Every group moved to a new area after about twenty minutes. Returning from whole school playtime, which activity do you think they all wanted to do? Yes – the power of the stick is an incredible thing! Whittlers, every one of them! And I do hope that this weekend you were impressed with that neatly peeled potato in your kitchen…

You see…those little skills are forever useful…we can all join in from the field to the kitchen!

Presentation at Greys

Parents arrived for the 2.15 start. Time to look at the display boards of Outdoor School.

Inside the barn Duckpuddle sat on the PE mats. Parents and visitors filled the chairs.

Rooksnest were stationed at points around the Farm. They helped visitors to follow the two routes that both classes had walked on their previous visits. Their role also included guiding cars into the car park and greeting our visitors.

IMG_0756When everyone had completed the tours all returned to the barn for the start of the presentation.

Individual children came to the front and spoke about how the experience of Greys had helped them to become Countryside Citizens. Then our local councillor for Royston and rural schools, Mr Jarvis, handed out a class certificate for each class for their excellent work as Countryside Citizens. The oldest and the youngest child received the awards on behalf of their respective classes. Following this, individual children received awards for their unique contributions that went ‘above and beyond’ school expectations.

These individual certificates recognised the work children had put into clearing up litter, planting flowers and vegetables, making wildlife friendly habitats, and becoming aware of how we can personally engage with positive action to help improve our local environments. All this was achieved in their own homes and gardens. It was a very proud moment for many!

IMG_0815

At the end of the presentation Therfield School presented Edward Darling with a wordcloud of Greys-inspired-Outdoor-School-words collected from Rooksnest during their last visit to say thank you for letting us visit and learn so much about wildlife and the environment.

Click the link to see the wordcloud: wordcloud(2)

IMG_0819

Mrs McGovern, head teacher of Therfield First School, closes the presentation and we all went home at 3.15pm.

Although it is the end of Outdoor School this term, the work of citizenship and the environment will move to the next level in September. We welcome your thoughts about todays event and any other ideas you may have in the comments.

Thank you for participating today – we really enjoyed celebrating with you our marvellous Outdoor School learning.

Healthy eating outdoors

When I shared the thought with a fellow outdoor enthusiast that eating with children outdoors NEVER really meant healthy eating if you only have a short time – I was promptly informed that Mary Berry herself has quipped ‘cakes are healthy too, you just eat a small slice’.

No one questioned the rights or wrongs of marshmallows dripping onto the crackling kindling as they were toasted on blunt ended sticks wrapped in foil, followed by biscuit mix pasted onto the charred remains. All was either consumed in earnest or spat out if too burnt! Accompanying this feast were shrieks of ‘I only had one… they had another one!’  While some kept a close account of how many were eaten by whom,  others took their time to master the technique of turning a marshmallow before it was too black! Finding the right length stick proved an interesting challenge. I cannot blame anyone for opting for a short one – probably closer to a fork, but in reality this made the task tricky as children begun to appreciate from their first hand experience of cooking on an open fire. The sudden whoosh of the wind, the ebbing strength of the flames, the need to think and respond to a real element in motion, provided a fantastic opportunity for learning to look after yourself outdoors. Appreciated was the need to follow safe instructions:  a bucket of water and sand close by merged understanding of having fun cooking while maintaining respectful behaviour towards the flames. The conversation was quick and exciting.

For me, clearing up the charred sticks at the end brought to life Paul Prudhomme’s saying that ‘you don’t need a silver fork to eat good food’. Eating outdoors is more than just about ‘eating’ as it involves cooperation, care for self and others, and a rare opportunity to meet the natural elements head on. I think a very healthy eating experience was had by all.

A box garden: wishes, wants, and needs

The box gardens received many compliments from parents at last Wednesday’s open evening. Conscious that children have not been overly quoted in previous blogs, I have put together a few quotes from the creators of these gardens. These were collected when I asked why they had chosen their particular garden features?

‘I put an apple in my garden because I like the sound of the crunch’.

‘I put a bench because I like to have a snooze in my garden’.

‘I made a pond for the frogs and I made flowers for the bees’.

‘I put a pond because I love fish’.

‘I like ponds because there are fish and frogs then frogs eat slugs’.

‘I did make a swing because the spiders get a home’.

More quotes would reveal the need for a swing, stony pathway, it must be ‘fun’, space to run fast, a waterfall, a washing line, a slide, lots of flowers, chairs to sit on, a tent to hide in, gold fences, fairy lights, homes for minibeasts and wild creatures. I hope you find these recommendations useful in planning your own (or future) garden spaces!

IMG_0651