Outdoor Classroom Day – The Power of the Outdoors

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog by Jon Cree

Communing with another – a ceremonial transformation. Encounters with a nettle.

Outdoor Classroom Day Blog, by Jon CreeThis week I experienced a palpable shift in one of the teachers on a workshop I was facilitating – let’s call her Jane (real name left out for anonymity). The workshop entitled “lost words”, is based on the book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, that seems to have swept up the country’s schools in its magic. It involves facilitating teacher’s sensory observation of non human beings then representing these encounters through various sketching and poetry techniques to rediscover the meaning of the name for said ‘being’.

What I witnessed in this teacher was more than something to do with rediscovering the meaning of adder, otter, kingfisher and willow – it was a shift where the inner and outer worlds met.

At the start of the day there was a distinct reluctance, indeed possibly belligerence, to ‘open up’ the heart to the possibilities of what might come if you just ‘be’ with other ‘more the human’ beings. There seemed to be resistance to allowing the inner and outer worlds collide…”what I can’t take my pen and paper to my sit spot?” was a retort.

On returning from said sit spot a shift had already happened and the shackles of culture started to slip away. Rules of poetry were there to be broken, and with the aid of the words ringing on the Guernsey winds of the likes of poets such as David Whyte, Ted Hughes and Mary Oliver you could see said teacher’s shoulders dropping and a sparkle and smile spreading across her face…Jane was definitely letting down her guard. After some working with senses and words, sketching exercises that emphasised a playful sensory integration of subject and paper, in her case this was flint and paper (I always feel rocks have so much to tell us), there started to be a melding of natural world awareness and expression.

The Power of the Outdoors - Outdoor Classroom Day Blog

Then came the big occasion of the day – 90 minutes of sitting with one being, in her case a nettle. Jane approached her subject as advised in a mindful slow yet playful way, observing from all angles and finding just the right spot and body distance to give both beings respect yet intimacy. I watched and witnessed a rushing at this point to distil the essence of nettle in sketch and rubbing, and then something extraordinary happened in this seemingly ordinary space.

 

Her words started to flow – she had exclaimed at the start of the day that she hated poetry (she is a leader in literacy in her school!) and there was a moment where she sat in ceremony celebrating this resilient yet vulnerable ‘being’ – she literally performed her own small ceremony for said nettle. It was as if Jane had entered her own mytho-poetic world where the inner and outer had collided…her soul and psyche had entered the nettle kingdom.

I know this sounds somewhat far fetched for to get to this stage can sometimes take years and many vision quests, but I was certain in just 5 and a half hours she had entered into a ceremonial conversation with the world…the words were flowing. It was a beautiful moment to witness she was participating fully in the world from which we all come from – not the technological but the natural. I couldn’t but help myself from going over to sit beside Jane and she willingly showed me her sketchbook, made that morning, and the words that just kept coming…she had entered into a deep caring relationship with the nettle.

The Power of the OutdoorsSome may say that this was nothing other than the keen observation and spending time with another being that provoked the words, i.e time for ‘contact’. But I am certain this was down to an opening of heart and the imaginal whispers of the nettle that created an almost sacred space in which Jane could, in her own soft way, make this a ceremonial instance to cement said ‘connection’ rather than ‘contact’.

My words may seem grandiose and exaggerated but I am certain, indeed we know from cultures of the past and present, that ceremony deepens relationship.

I came away feeling that we need to allow our learners more time with the non human and celebrate the ensuing relationship in some form of respectful way with a mixture of ‘gravitas’ and ‘levitas’.

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors – 3 day course with Jon Cree.
Optional Level 3 Accreditation available.

This course is aimed at any educator who feels they want to engage and work with students in the outdoors who may be reluctant learners (of any age).

This course will delve into:

  • What challenges us as leaders in the outdoors
  • Theory on challenging behaviour
  • Up-to-date neural research; triggers and causes for challenging behaviour
  • Ways of dealing with ‘real life’ scenarios in the outdoors
  • De-escalation
  • How to transfer outdoor strategies into an indoor and other settings – including looking at the validity of sanctions and rewards.
  • Reviewing your own policies

Date: 17th, 18th & 19th June 2019 at Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex OR 20th, 21st & 22nd November 2019 at Parkwood Campsite, Poynings, East Sussex.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree
Cost: £325 for the 3 day course, £55 for the Accreditation (optional). This Level 3 West Midlands Open College Network Accredited Course.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here for the June course or online here for the November course.
More information: please visit the website.


Transforming education, health and family through nature

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

International School Grounds Month

What is International School Grounds Month?

Each year, in May, the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) calls on schools around the world to take their pupils outside to celebrate International School Grounds Month. They believe that school grounds are hugely important to children and youth, and shape their experience of the world around them.

Why is it important?

International School Grounds Month - Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.In some cases, school or nursery grounds are the first place children have the opportunity to become acquainted with the natural world. Outdoor learning, even in a playground environment, provides opportunities for free play, exploration, development of fine and gross motor skills, physical activity, healthy risk taking and fun.

In 2016, a study funded by Persil, as part of their ‘dirt is good’ campaign, found that 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

 

This is less time than the UN guidelines for prisoners, which requires “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily”.

Further to this, the World Health Organisation has just released new guidelines to say that ‘children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in prams and seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play if they are to grow up healthy’ WHO, 24th April 2019. Visit their website for details.

So more time outdoors is imperative for our young people, and school grounds provide the perfect opportunity.

How can you get involved?

The ISGA is encouraging all schools to use this opportunity to engage their students in learning, play and other activities outside – for an hour, a day, or a week during International School Grounds in May.

For activity ideas, download their Activity Guide which includes a collection of 104 exciting ideas that support learning across the curriculum, promote healthy lifestyles, and encourage play and exploration during free time, before, during, and after school.

Share with us during International Schools Grounds Month

What are you doing for International School Grounds Month?

We would love to know what your school is doing for International Schools Grounds Month, please share your activities with us on social media on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram page.

 

 

What is Circle of Life Rediscovery doing for International School Grounds Month?

Circle of Life Rediscovery is delighted to launch a new range of bespoke products and services, to develop your school grounds and support outdoor learning and Forest School.

We will be working in collaboration with Vert Woods Community Woodland (VWCW), a locally and sustainably managed community woodland, to supply sustainable wood for the products, with ‘Grown in Britain’ status.

What can we offer?

Forest School Shelters – our shelters are all bespoke, designed for each space, with your choice of tarp material and colour.

Forest School Shelters“Thank you so much for the fantastic shelter. It has completely exceeded our expectations and will provide years of enjoyment for both children and adults! Mark and Tom were helpful and efficient throughout the whole process and I would not hesitate to recommend them to other Forest Schools.”

Becky Evans, Inclusion Leader, Park Mead School.

“We are delighted with our wonderful new Forest School shelter built by Circle of Life Rediscovery. Prior to construction they came to the site to discuss our needs and offer helpful suggestions. They gave us a choice of tarpaulins to suit our requirements and explained the construction process.

Forest School SheltersThey built the shelter in the holidays to avoid any term time disruption. The job was completed on the days stated, despite the appalling weather! Lots of the shelters I researched on line were more like garden buildings or outdoor classrooms. We wanted something more in keeping with our natural setting and as you can see from the photo it looks great within the woodland. It is very solidly constructed. Mark and Tom are obviously talented craftsmen and were also generous with their advice for our site. This was money very well spent. This shelter will serve our forest school well, enabling us to work with the children in all weathers. The wind on site had been a real problem with our temporary tarps. The children absolutely love it!”
Ocklynge Primary School, September 2018.

NEW products for 2019…
  • Wood stores
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire circle/basecamp log seating
  • Wooden planters
  • Wildlife boxes for birds, bats or hedgehogs
  • Tippy taps
Outdoor Learning Services

Please contact us for more details on any of our products and services or call 01273 814226. We look forward to hearing from you.

Katie Scanlan – Operations Manager, Circle of Life Rediscovery.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

Get Real. Get Messy. Get Maths. Get Outdoors.

Outdoors Maths with Juliet Robertson.

There are many reasons why maths is a core part of the curriculum worldwide. It provides us with skills and knowledge that can be used in our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, we are constantly estimating, problem-solving and making quick judgements about quantities and amounts. For example, you may need to check you have the exact change for a bus or wonder if you can still fit into your trousers after several days of a festive celebration.

Join our Messy Maths CPD on 21st September with Juliet Robertson

 

To help you think and plan maths experiences outdoors here are some practical suggestions:

Getting ready to go outside provides many mathematical moments:

  • Time the class to get ready. This can be using a non-standard unit of measurement, such as a song for little children. With older children, this will be using a stopwatch or other timer.
  • Use lining up to reinforce key data handling skills. For example, request children make two lines, e.g. those who are wearing green, those who are not wearing green. This creates a human line graph and can be used for counting and discussing differences between the length of each line. Change the attributes each time you go out. Your children will have plenty of suggestions here.
  • Problem-solve with your class about ways of getting ready quickly and without fuss. Link these to the strategies used to solve problems, so children can see how a skill learned has real life applications.

Maths on the move. Make the most of the distance between your class and your outdoor space:

  • Estimate the number of steps it takes to get outside. Discuss afterwards why everyone has a different answer. Is it possible to standardise this distance and how would we do this?
  • Count aloud and chant in multiples, e.g. multiples of three on each step: 3, 6, 9, etc.
  • What happens to your counting when you take five steps forward and one step back. Consider how to create links between numbers and the pattern of walking forwards and backwards.

Creating a gathering circle in mathematical ways

Explore the size of the circle made when children hold hands, stretch out and touch each other’s fingertips or huddle together shoulder-to-shoulder. Discuss and explore how the size could be measured. This may include:

  • Pacing around the outside of the circle as a non-standard approach.
  • Using a trundle wheel for noting metres or yards.
  • Using a long piece or rope or string. If you put a mark at every metre or yard on the rope then it becomes a giant measuring tape.

Estimating everything

Messy Maths CPD

Children need lots of practice at estimating so they are able to make reasonable guesses based upon experience and knowledge. It is a basic strategy for problem solving and enquiry work as well as a useful life skill. Being outside provides a real context for estimating. It is hard to tell the number of birds in a flock, bricks in a wall or exactly how long it will take to walk to the shops. There is a constant need for everyone to be making estimates of amounts and activities based upon our experiences. Teachers can encourage the children estimate and then to check:

  • Number: having a guess before counting the flock of birds flying overhead – we count ten birds and then use this to count the rest in chunks of ten.
  • Money: evaluating whether we have enough money to buy something we need.
  • Distance: estimating how far away the end of the playing field is.
  • Volume: thinking about the volume of water in one bucket or watering can compared to another.
  • Weight and mass: wondering how much food the birds will eat at a bird table.
  • Time: considering how long it will take to complete a task.

It can help to make group estimates where there is a consensus. With older children, the skill of rounding up or down is a natural progression within estimation.

Playing maths games

All around the world there are strategy games, which were developed using locally found materials on a board that can be drawn onto an outdoor surface. Games involve looking for patterns and knowing the cause and effect of moves undertaken in particular sequences. This usually involves playing the game lots of times and experimenting with different moves. Some basic points include:

  • Children need time to learn each game by just enjoying the experience of playing it. Older children can assist younger ones. Hold a games session so that parents and carers can learn different games too.
  • If a game isn’t going well, ask the children for their ideas about making it better. What rules could be adapted or changed? How can they make the game more exciting?
  • Games can be adapted to help the children acquire specific skills in many areas of maths. When you do this, it can be helpful to seek the children’s thoughts and suggestions. This gives them ownership of their learning and facilitates a personal interest.
  • Children enjoy inventing their own games. Whether you have a pile of stones or a few leaves lying under a tree, challenge them to create a game to help them learn a specific maths concept or skill.

By Juliet Robertson, foMessy Maths under of Creative STAR Learning, UK.

Many of these ideas are expanded upon in her book: Messy Maths: An Outdoor and Playful Approach for Early Years.

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Outdoor Learning – A Case Study by Juliet Robertson

Outdoor Learning at St Geradine Primary School

One year ago Juliet Robertson spent two mornings working with a small group of teachers at St Geradine’s Primary School in Lossiemouth. The Depute Head, Fiona Stevenson, who was leading the outdoor learning improvements, wrote the report below, with one of the class teachers, Laura McGurke, for their local authority newsletter.
How do you develop a Whole School Approach to Outdoor Learning?
St Geradine School in Lossiemouth was delighted to receive £3000 from the Innovation Fund to support their work in developing outdoor learning.
Their aims were:
  1. To develop outdoor learning within and across their school in order that it is embedded within the curriculum and sustainable for the future, with a view to being able to share/roll out developments to other interested primary schools.
  2. To provide learners with a wide range of fun, meaningful and challenging experiences:
  • Pupils will have opportunities for challenge and enjoyment through outdoor learning experiences.
  • Pupils’ learning and development will be supported and enhanced through meaningful play opportunities.
  • Pupils will develop their skills (e.g. problem solving, team working etc.) and personal attributes (e.g. resilience).
A working group comprising one of their DHTs, P2 teacher and P6/7 teacher consulted with Juliet Robertson from Creative STAR Learning to plan and lead the development.
Through a series of staff meetings they achieved their aims by:
Creating outdoor learning folders:
  • These included risk benefit assessments personalised for Lossiemouth and their school grounds, helpful guides on planning trips to the forest, beach and quarry, ideas for activities in Numeracy, Literacy and Inter-disciplinary Learning (IDL), the Countryside Code, the Highway Code and local maps.
  • Ordering resources to support the stewardship roles, literacy and numeracy.
  • Creating class backpacks with essential equipment for off-site visits in the local area.
  • Beginning to plan for developing the school grounds to enhance learning experiences.
  • Staff involvement in a series of twilight sessions looking at the local area and the opportunities within it for outdoor learning, learning experiences in numeracy and literacy and how to use the beach as a learning context.
The impact on learners:
  1. Improved health & wellbeing (fitness, fresh air, emotional & mental health etc.)
  • Children state they feel better working outside as there is more space available and lots of fresh air.
  • P7 parents have commented on the increase of outdoor play at home as a result of ‘Wolf Brother’ sessions outdoors.
  • Nursery parents strongly believe our outdoor provision is very good.
  • Classes walk from the school to the forest, quarry and beach areas.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy outdoors because it’s very peaceful’ Claudia P7 Pupil
  • ‘It’s a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors which is extremely enjoyable.’ P7 pupil
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because of the outdoor atmosphere, especially when it’s slightly breezy and the birds are tweeting. It all feels very peaceful and relaxing.’ Aimee P7
  • ‘I like the coolness and I also like the hotness and I like the games we play.’ Lewis P2
  • ‘I think I learn more when I’m outside.’ Evie P2
  • ‘I like running outside because it’s good for my bones.’ Ava P2
  • ‘It was cold. We run outside to keep warm.’ Niall Nursery
 
  1. Connections being made in their learning from curricular areas to the real world and within real contexts; seeing the relevance of their learning; making sense of their learning; interdisciplinary learning experiences.
  • All classes had planned outdoor sessions for the next term. P1 are used the local community and school grounds to support literacy and maths (line and shape, information handling, shape, measurement and number in context). They gathered information to write reports and identified landmarks within Lossiemouth; P2 visited the forest weekly to support all areas of the curriculum; P2-3 classes have used learning walks around Lossiemouth within an IDL on ‘Footprints from the past’; P4-5 classes used the school grounds to support literacy and numeracy and have visited the beach to work on science and poetry writing; P5-7 are using ‘Wolf Brother’ novel as a stimulus to work outside using the forest, quarry and school grounds.
  • SFL staff are using the outdoors to support work in literacy and numeracy.
  • Nursery classes are outdoors every day for focussed and free play.
  • All classes have undertaken a stewardship role with their classes which should promote feeling of responsibility for our school grounds for all e.g. litter, birds, wildlife, willow, garden, composting.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I enjoy all of outdoor learning because I enjoy going outside and going to the woods and quarry’ Olivia P7
  • ‘I enjoy outdoor learning because you can engage with nature.’ Mollie P7
  • ‘We planted golden flowers. We sprinkled the seeds in the soil.’ Grace Nursery
  • ‘I put the soil on the seeds. I watered them with water and a watering can. We were raking to put the air in.’ Archie Nursery
  1. Opportunities for creative and critical thinking, challenge and enquiry
  • P2 used small world toys and a fairy tree stimulus to create stories in the local woods.
  • P5-7 used natural dyes to create artwork.
  • Learners at all stages using natural materials to create artwork and to support literacy and numeracy.
  • Learners frequently talking and reflecting about their learning outside.
Quotes from learners:
  • My favourite part of outdoor learning was doing the arty stuff.’ Sally P7
  • I enjoy doing all the different jobs because some are hard.’ Georgina P7
  • I like outdoor learning because we get to hear sounds.’ Aaliyah P2
  • I was putting sticks in a pile. I was pretending it was a fire.’ Aiden Nursery
  • I collected shells and wood and ice and pine cones and old leaves off trees. We sorted it all out into piles.’ Aiden Nursery
  1. Stimulating and varied learning experiences, a different learning environment, more relaxed learning environment
  • Use of school grounds, beaches, forest and quarry.
  • Homework tasks which are outdoor based have been more successfully completed by more learners.
  • Parents are aware and are enthusiastic about the increased variety of experiences outdoors.
  • Learners are more openly talking about these experiences with their families.
Quotes from learners:
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because it gives me a chance to learn about nature.’ Claire P7
  • ‘I like working outside because it’s easier to learn and I like the activities we do.’ Bella P7
  • ‘I liked how you can learn things and do them at home.’ Bethan P7
  • ‘I really enjoy outdoor learning because I like going out to different places and to see different things’ Fern P7
  • ‘I enjoy doing maths outside.’ Oliver P2
  1. Opportunities for personal achievement
  1. Motivation through experiential learning
  • Staff have reported learners being more engaged and enthused with learning outdoors.
  • Parents have reported increased use of outdoors at home.
  1. Opportunities for risk benefit management; decision making skills.
  • Learners are actively involved in considering possible risks when working outdoors.
  • All classes have established rules and responsibilities and are developing confidence in their routines.
Impact on staff:
  • Every class within the school has engaged with outdoor learning and staff now feel more confident and equipped to take their classes outdoors.
  • Staff have embraced the challenge of working outdoors and are creating challenging and enjoyable experiences for our pupils.
  • Staff feel supported with the Risk Benefit Assessments, class backpacks and bank of resources and have enjoyed reading Dirty Teaching.
  • The teachers who have been leading the development have enjoyed the opportunity to develop something they have a keen interest in and are delighted with the clear impact it has had on staff and learners. They now have a better understanding of the process of development work and how to integrate outdoor learning into all curricular areas.
Developments for the future:
  • To further embed the use of the outdoors in their practice.
  • To continue to develop routines for going outside so that learners are more confident and independent.
  • Develop the school grounds in partnership with the school and local community.
  • Continue to build on the award schemes they have begun.
  • Continue to build a bank of resources and accommodation for these.
Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
If this guest blog post gives you a flavour of what can be kick started with a little support from Juliet, please come along to the Circle of Life Rediscovery CPD on 18th May:
Dirty Teaching – Developing a Whole School Approach to Learning Outdoors. Click here to find out more and book your place!
In this practical course, we look at realistic ways of embedding outdoor practice into the life and ethos of your school.
Circle of Life Rediscovery

Circle of Life Rediscovery is a not for profit CIC company in East Sussex. They provide outdoor learning and nature based experiences including bespoke Camps for schools, Forest School sessions, Enrichment Days plus Forest School Training Level 3 and CPD’s for adults as well as funded programmes. Find out more here.

Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson
“I believe strongly in the capacity of schools and teachers to develop their own outdoor practice. I save time re-inventing the wheel or getting stuck on irrelevant matters – keeping the focus on the learning experiences and outcomes for children. I also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience which can help staff think more strategically about embedding outdoor learning into the life of the school.”
Juliet Robertson, Creative STAR Learning. Find out more here.