Outdoor learning encompasses and permeates the whole curriculum at Boxgrove C of E Primary School. We believe that spending time outdoors is essential to the development of the whole child and this is reflected in the things we offer as both part of curriculum lessons and our specific Forest School sessions. It has been widely documented that free play in nature, and a feeling of being connected with nature, play an important part in children’s intellectual, social and emotional development. Our children love learning outdoors in a wide variety of contexts and we are developing our grounds to ensure we can use them as much as possible.
For the 2022-2023 academic year, we have been lucky enough to secure a Local School Nature Grant. This grant will be used to by a Loose Parts play kit and training to support the use of the kit. This equipment will be used in outdoor learning and will also be introduced into playtime activities.
Outdoor Education as a whole has become an important part of the children’s learning experience at Boxgrove C of E Primary School since the introduction of our on-site Forest School program. Staff are encouraged to use outdoor learning in a variety of lessons, where appropriate, to help children engage with their learning in a different way and so that they can benefit from being in the outdoor environment at the same time. This could include a range of activities such as pond dipping, science lessons, active maths outside, reading sessions, art sketching, and any other activity that can be completed outside to enhance learning.
Forest School is a way of working with children that was developed in Scandinavia in the 1950s. It is a way of reconnecting children with nature, and giving them the freedom and skills to learn and develop in a natural environment. Forest School in England was introduced in the 1990s and it has since become a very popular way of engaging with children and nurturing not only their academic skills but also their physical, social and emotional development. Forest school aims to nurture the whole child, and benefits to self-esteem, confidence, social skills, creativity, emotional intelligence and overall well-being are well documented. Through a range of practical activities including things like playing with/moulding mud, whittling, tree climbing, imaginative play, fire-making, cooking and den building, children are encouraged and supported to work with each other and with nature in a respectful but fun way. Children are able to achieve small steps towards a goal in their own time scale to give them a sense of achievement and pride. They are given the freedom to choose their own path of activities and therefore to develop and engage with those areas of themselves that is comfortable for them. This can give them a sense of wellbeing and freedom that is difficult to achieve in a more structured setting. Children will often follow their own path of discovery and learn many new facts and skills often without even realising it! Often, Forest School sessions can give children a new connection with nature, helping them to value and respect the outdoor environment and their world. There is a very inclusive feel to sessions and children of all abilities and backgrounds will be able to be challenged at their own level. Through Forest School, children have access to a creative curriculum, whilst at the same time learning important life skills that cannot always be offered in the classroom setting.
At Boxgrove C of E Primary School, children from Year 1 upwards have a block of 5 weeks of Forest School sessions each year. Two trained Teaching Assistants lead the sessions. We are developing a progression of skills to ensure that there are new skills for the children to learn as they progress through the school. Safety is a key priority and all key risk assessments are in place an updated regularly. Forest School sessions are a highlight of the year for many of our children, and it is a pleasure to see them develop a range of new skills.
Our Outdoor Environment
At Boxgrove C of E Primary, we take great pride in our outdoor spaces. As well as our large playground with activity trail and play tower, we have a large field, which the children use for free play and sport. There are a range of toys available for children to use in the open spaces during playtimes. This year our outdoor classroom space is being rebuilt to allow more children to use it for outdoor activities as part of the curriculum or for playtime use. Our Forest school activities mainly take place in a designated area with log seating and a fire pit. There are trees here, which can be used for climbing or den building. We also have a small wooded area elsewhere in the grounds where there is a tree, which can be climbed, and dens can be built. We make the most of a range of materials including a set of tyres that the children are free to use creatively. There is space for free digging as well as designated areas for planting. There are plenty of tables with benches to allow children to read or work outside. Our quiet spiritual garden contains a covered quiet seating area as well as being the focus for specific events such as Remembrance Day. We are always looking for opportunities to develop our grounds and will continue to do so in response to the children’s interests and needs.