Although our school is in the midst of an urban environment, we ensure that children experience the natural world at every opportunity, wherever it can be found. An understanding of and sympathy with plant and animal life, as well as an understanding of the cycle of the seasons, is a vital part of children’s learning.
Our outdoor learning provision is delivered through the use of local spaces, such as the nearby Community Garden, the King Henry’s Walk Adventure Playground and the Almorah Gardens, to provide extended learning and play opportunities. We regularly use the adjacent Church garden for science related exploration. Timetabled outdoor provision gives children the chance to spend time in the fresh air and use their senses, observing nature and exploring the local community.
Each session has a different focus that supports the curriculum. For example, children visit the community garden every week to look at seasonal changes. In summer they might simply sit on the grass to listen to a story. They might release butterflies as part of a science project and gather inspiration for butterfly poetry. The children visit the eco centre in Gillespie park for pond dipping to support their understanding of eco-systems and life cycles. They plant and harvest their own vegetables in our allotment plot to reinforce their understanding of plant growth. Children search for mini beasts and study natural habitats. They use natural materials for transient art, maths activities and imaginative play that incorporates our focus on the natural world.
Outdoor trips are a highlight of each calendar year. Year 2 children visit the Essex coast to learn about sustainable living in an eco-community and to observe coastal features. Year 1 children travel back in time when they visit the Chiltern Open Air Museum to attend a Victorian school, churn butter and explore an environment without cars or machinery. Reception children regularly visit London Zoo.
We have made efforts to increase bio-diversity in the playground, introducing planters which the children maintain, a water butt, nesting boxes and insect houses. Playtimes are long enough to encourage immersive play out of doors and wherever possible, children are taught outside. Even in cold or wet weather, children are dressed appropriately so that they can be outside in the fresh air at playtime with space to move freely and play imaginatively.
Children’s development and understanding of the world is enhanced by real experiences and regular exploration of the physical world around them.