We believe that every child should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development and that is why we have made this one of our key priorities at The Russell School. In 2018 we opened our outdoor classroom, built by Mr Bailey. This is called 'The Nature Lodge'.
Links to outdoor learning opportunities are made across all subject areas throughout the school curriculum and children take part in weekly outdoor learning activities which provide opportunities for discovery, for physical challenges, for dramatic play, team building and creative problem solving. There are opportunities for art and craft, environmental games or learning through storytelling and song.
Through teaching children small achievable and progressively more challenging tasks, they can achieve something that would have seemed impossible. Young children are taught to use small hand tools in a safe environment; such as being shown how to use peelers to peel sticks. Opportunities for taking appropriate risks are linked to a growth in confidence and enhancement of self-esteem and independence.
Children learn about their local environment, what can be found there and its uses. By only taking what is necessary; they learn to respect their environment and to be caretakers of the Earth. They develop and nurture respect and responsibility for themselves, other people and the environment in an empowering experience, which is also exciting, healthy and fun!
The outdoors is a calm and ever changeable environment that our pupils respond to in a positive way and see their learning in a different light; in a more practical, hands-on and self-led way. When our pupils take their learning outside the classroom, they are inspired, enthused and empowered and gain an enhanced awareness of environmental issues and sustainability.
The Benefits of Outdoor Learning
Children grow, learn and thrive better when connected with the natural world. They are biologically designed to be in it.
- The pace of learning is important. Creating time to think and reflect through a sense of ‘slowliness’ can be very powerful.
- Learning through adventure and experience is ‘hard wired’ into children and should be strongly nurtured. It tends to be adult attitudes and curriculum pressures that are often the barrier!
- Learning outdoors and in a less structured environment can be more relaxing for many learners.
- We can use outdoor learning to create a ‘growth mindset’ in our young people – attitudes of ‘I can do it’ and ‘let’s try again’.
- Curiosity, creativity and imagination can be easily catered for outdoors. As can resilience and collaboration (we don’t need to over structure or over manage the experiences).
- We must allow for failure, setback and adversity in our learning. Also that ambiguity and even a little ‘chaos’ can be a positive thing!
- Risk is an intelligent behaviour – we must allow for risk taking (within limits) and learn from it. There will be bumps and scrapes and the occasional accident.
- When it comes to learning outside the classroom we must think ‘and’ not ‘or’. It’s not either indoor or outdoor learning but combining the two. Outdoor learning can help to provide context and meaning.
- Mindsets and behaviours can easily shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ to allow for greater collaboration and team/group based activities.