Learning outside the classroom (LOtC)
The ethos of Learning Outside the Classroom is based on providing a nurturing space that supports our children’s wellbeing by providing and implementing positive, outdoor, child centred experiences in a natural setting. At Woodcocks’ Well we believe in a child's right to play; the right to access the outdoors (and in particular a woodland environment); the right to experience risk in a controlled way in the natural world along with the right to develop their emotional intelligence through social interaction, building a resilience to enable creative engagement with their peers and their potential.
Learning Outside the Classroom is an inspirational process that offers all learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment. Children who struggle learning indoors are often enabled to develop new ways of learning and coping with the world. The opportunity to succeed in an alternative environment, and in different ways makes Forest School a great place for children of all ages and abilities the chance to succeed.
Forest School is based on the process of learning - more on the 'how' than the 'what'. Forest School practice embraces collaborative unplanned, unexpected and ultimately unlimited learning. Children are encouraged to direct their own learning - this is often inspired by the Forest School leader either through stimulating play in the outdoors or through 'scaffolding' a child's learning, but mostly through simply observing how children are in the outdoors. The most important thing is to encourage the natural curiosity present in children and to enable them to open their eyes and experience the wonders of the world around them.
The woodland environment is central in supporting this approach to learning: the changing of the seasons, to the contemplation of an ancient tree; the dynamic nature of an outdoor environment - an infinite source of smells, textures, sounds and tastes and a range of visual stimuli all contribute to the Learning Outside the Classroom learning experience. It has a calming effect on the learner and the woodland becomes a place that children can connect to.
A Forest School encourages children to:
- Develop personal and social skills including, ; resilience, independent, confidence and patience.
- Work through practical problems and challenges
- Use tools to create, build or manage
- Discover how they learn best
- Pursue knowledge that interests them
- Learn how to manage failures
- Build confidence in decision making and evaluating risk
- Develop practical skills
- Understand the benefits of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
- Explore connections between humans, wildlife and God’s earth
- Regularly experience achievement and success
- Reflect on learning and experiences
- Develop their language and communication skills
- Improve physical motor skills
- Become more motivated and aspirational
- Improve their concentration skills
Activities for Learning Outside the Classroom are extensive. Forest Schools experiences are diverse and numerous, we are trying to create independent learners who are inspired to try out their own ideas, explore their own interests and to attempt new ideas.
Some activities might include:
- Shelter building
- Fire lighting and cooking on an open fire
- Using a Kelly Kettle
- Tool use
- Studying wildlife
- Playing team and group games
- Sensory activities
- Rope and string work, tying knots
- Art and sculpture work
- Woodland and traditional craft
- Woodland management
- Developing stories and drama, and meeting imaginary characters
- Fire lighting/cooking
Before each session the forest school leader must carry out a risk assessment of the forest school site using the proforma found in the forest school folder on OneDrive. The forest school leader must identify and remove/reduce risks that are found during the risk assessment.
To ensure high standards of teaching and learning in the forest classroom, we implement a curriculum that is progressive throughout the whole school starting in reception. Forest school teaching follows a whole school long term plan which focuses on outdoor skills and links to their learning in other subjects. At Woodcocks’ well, we ensure that forest school has importance within the timetable.
At Woodcocks’ Well, we are blessed with a beautiful outdoors learning environment ranging from the grounds forest school area, the schools allotments, pond and expansive field. It is here the majority of the learning will take place. This will allow children a safe base from which to explore.
Learning Outside the Classroom lessons should make learning more relevant to their lives in the community and wider world. We encourage children to be responsible for and respect the local community and environment giving them a sense of belonging and ownership of the place in which they live. Our Learning Outside the Classroom sessions will encourage children’s self-esteem, confidence, resilience, creativity and sense of achievement.
As children grow in confidence in their abilities in the outdoor environment, they will begin to understand, assess and manage their own risk and safety. This will allow the children to become more independent and show them that life comes with not only risk but also rewards. It also teaches them what their own limits are and that they can push through them. They will see that sometimes we don’t always get the desired result the first time but that doesn’t make us a failure, it helps us to grow, forcing us to try again in a different way. It encourages problem solving logical thinking and self-reflection and evaluation but most of all the pupils will see that mistakes aren’t failures; they are a part of learning, that they are, ultimately, human.
We measure the impact of our curriculum through the following methods:
- Images and videos of the children’s practical learning.
- Interviewing the pupils about their learning (pupil voice).