Outdoor Learning for Schools
Lorraine Perks, Bee in the Woods’ School Adventure Coordinator
The arrival of summer has seen the Bee in the Woods team buzzing (sorry!) with excitement about our latest venture; outdoor learning for schools.
We launched our outdoor classroom with the lovely children from Hove Junior School and it’s been not only a joy for us but also a resounding success for the children and their teachers.
Over two weeks in June, we worked with around 400 children, stripping back the classroom walls, replacing the ceiling with the sky, and immersing the children in their natural world.
When the tired, smiling, dusty children boarded their buses and waved goodbye, we all reflected on the immeasurable benefits of learning outdoors.
I have taught in Primary schools for about 9 years. On my journey from NQT to experienced teacher I met and taught hundreds of children, all unique, all with different interests, strengths, levels of confidence, struggles, worries, life experiences, skills, home lives and so on. All different. But, and I know it sounds obvious, the thing that unites them, is that they are all children.
What do children need to learn
Towards the end of my time in the classroom, I kept coming back to this question: what do children need to learn? Yes, I know, it’s a BIG question and I know my old colleagues could debate this for hours. The tools of learning might include desks, chairs, pens and paper. But what about before those things are needed? The word I came up with was inspiration. I think that word really fits the bill for me and for many of my teacher friends. And so, leaving behind the phenomenally inspiring and talented classroom teachers I worked with, it was time to try a different form of inspiration. Nature.
I left my teaching role last December, and since then have worked with the Queen Bees of Bee in the Wood to create our curriculum linked programmes for schools to inspire young minds. Our outdoor learning sessions are designed specifically to inspire learning and to help teachers ensure that the breadth of the National Curriculum and Programmes of Study are covered.
Do our sessions cover the curriculum?
Yes: Science, DT, Art, Maths, English, History, Geography (and all the subjects) can play a part, and this can be as big or small as the teachers wish.
The outdoor classroom is one where a growth mind-set can be nurtured, resilience developed, co-operation practised and communication skills honed.
Just try and build a shelter big enough, stable enough and sufficiently waterproof for yourself and 9 of your friends without those skills!
The Bee in the Woods’ outdoor classroom has seen bread baking, fire craft, story telling, poetry, miniature world creation and felting. The children have made crowns, dream catchers and natural mobiles using woodland treasures. We hosted a bunch of Wild Things, Tree Detectives and Ancient Castaways (Wolf Brother is definitely one of our favourite books at the moment)!
Our woodland classroom has seen children who have never visited a woodland before, lead a team of natural treasure hunters and learn to identify tree species; we met a child who has barely spoken all year, proudly and confidently explain his mini-world to his whole class and, perhaps most significantly for me personally, our woods have witnessed the great ‘levelling’ effect that this kind of learning provides.
There are no maths tables, no reading groups or writing levels in the woods.
The class dynamic is gently shaken and shifted. Quieter children become leaders. Children work as a team and new talents come to light. Creativity and the ability to think outside the box is celebrated (Edward De Bono’s Green Thinking Hat springs to mind for any philosophy geeks out there).
Children leave with new life skills and confidence, increased respect for their natural world and simultaneously (and not entirely coincidentally), they leave having worked on some of those curriculum goals!
So, were our first school sessions hot and sticky?
Yes, very much so!
Was it dusty and dirty?
Was it exhausting and utterly fabulous?
Would we recommend outdoor learning for every child, every school and all the hard working teachers out there?
We will continue to hang our ceiling with leaves and clouds, extend our walls out into the trees and to inspire young minds, filling them with wonder at their environment, new found confidence, reliance and skills. This is after-all their world. We are just trying our best to take care of it for them.
What the teachers thought.
"Year 5 at Hove Junior School had the most magical experience with Bee in the Woods this week. From learning how to build their own survival dens to creating beautiful, natural dream catchers, our day was filled with exciting and wonderful projects which the whole class loved and couldn't stop talking about on the coach back. Thank you for having us and providing us all with so many magical forest memories"
"We had a school trip organised and run by Bee in the Woods with year 5. It was a wonderful day, filled with adventure and excitement and Lucy and Lorraine made it fit with our topic (Into the Woods) and our core text (Wolf Brother) so well. Very well planned and organised and the children loved it. Would highly recommend"
You can find out more about what we can bring to your child’s school on our website.
Please do tell your children’s teachers, head teacher and teacher friends about us. We can’t wait to work with more fantastic schools!
- Sessions are available to book all year round and are suitable for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 (we haven’t forgotten about KS3+ - watch this space)
- We have a wide range of workshops for teachers to choose from. They can be used in a mix and match style to design the perfect learning experience.
- Why not have a chat to us about a bespoke programme for your class, based on your topic.