Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education. by David Polis
Outdoor learning across Fern Hill
Fern Hill Primary School offers outdoor learning opportunities for children across the school. The child’s natural curiosity is captured from their time in our Early Years setting and their need to explore and experiment is perfectly fostered in an outdoor classroom. As children grow and progress through the school, armed with their love of learning, they can stretch their understanding and problem solving skills outside with the opportunity to shine in open-ended challenges.
The school, with the support of governors, PSA and parents, has created a selection of varied environments in which the teaching staff of Fern Hill can maximise the learning potential that outdoor spaces offer.
Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
A predominant part of the EYFS philosophy is that children are continuously able to access high quality learning opportunities outdoors. We strive to provide a range of resources that will promote problem solving, team work and language skills. These include areas dedicated to ‘Construction’, ‘Exploration’ and ‘Creativity’ as well as a range of items specifically designed to develop the children’s gross motor skills. Both Nursery and Reception have recently opened new ‘mud kitchens’ in their outdoor areas which have proved to be a massive success.
School trips are planned to extend learning within each year across the three terms.
With the intended learning outcome in place, the teachers work with trip coordinator Mrs.Tatum to find the best place to launch or consolidate a topic.
Below are some examples of the outdoor trips planned in each Year Group:
Nursery: Rose Theatre
Reception: Kingston Fire station, Chessington zoo
Year 1: Hampton Court Palace, Bird World
Year 2: Littlehampton seaside, Bocketts Farm
Year 3:Natural History Museum
Year 4: Butser ancient farm, Thames Explorers, swimming (10weeks)
Year 5: Wakehurst Place, Kidzania
Year 6: Houses of Parliament, Royal Courts of Justice, Kew Gardens, Orange Tree Theatre, Albany park water sports (3 weeks)
Thames Young Mariners
Year 4 – An exciting new addition to the school calendar, the TYM residential! This one night sleepover with activities similar to those that Year 2 and 3 enjoy on their one day visit. This trip gives children the chance to experience a night away from home and the first step towards independence. The Year 4 residential is excellent preparation before the Year 5 journey. This is possible through the use of Sports Grant Funding.
Year 5 – The highlight of many children when they look back over their time at Fern Hill – the Year 5 school journey. Packed full of exciting learning opportunities unique to the nature of being away from home, children spend four days and three nights at Kingswood, Grosvenor Hall. Friendships reach a new degree of commitment and loyalty, there is a noticeable levelling of abilities and children bond with their peers and teachers alike. Children are encouraged to take responsibility for their belongings, their sleeping space, to budget their pocket money and manage their own hygiene as well as enjoy all of the enriching activities on offer over the four days. To read Year 5s blog please follow this link.
Beautifully designed and created by Martin Pantling and former Fern Hill site manager, Phil Kale, funded by the PSA and enjoyed by children, staff and parents. This is a wonderful resource for outdoor learning and enjoyment. The ‘Explore Outdoor’ and ‘Gardening’ clubs both use the area and consider new ways to use it creatively. Up coming projects include a Bug Hotel, a herb garden and the planting of new trees.
This outdoor classroom is brimming with resources. Whether the children are learning Science, Art, Literacy or Maths, they can all be enjoyed and extended using this valuable base. The Discovery Zone is used for groups and as a quiet area for children to retreat.
Newly designed with the guidance of the children, Fern Hill is now enjoying brand new apparatus created with the aim to provide a safe and enjoyable place to play and develop strong physical development. Our School Council have worked hard to create rules and share these with their peers. There are a variety of opportunities to play, explore, problem solve and be creative!
Our courtyard provides space for small groups to learn outside, develop gross motor skills and provide a quiet space for small group activities. Located between the Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms, it is ideally situated to be used by all of KS1.
Part of our Secret Garden is home to four raised vegetable beds in which an array of fruit and vegetables grow. We are currently growing radishes, onions, lettuces, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries etc... We have also redeveloped the rockery and planted many summer flowers to attract wildlife. The gardening club, known as the "Garden Gang" take responsibility for the garden areas. Although all children are encouraged to tend the growing produce and keep the garden clean and tidy, so it can be enjoyed by everyone.
Further resources for you
We have put together a selection of websites and ideas to support you in getting children out and about.
With Canbury Gardens, Richmond Park, Ham Common and Bushey Park all within easy reach of Kingston there are many places that children can enjoy being outdoors. Most activities include very little expense (if any) and it is amazing how long the most simple of activities will keep children entertained.
In the press
Great article in the Guardian with 32 super ideas!