Outdoor Learning at Northgate
At Northgate, we are very fortunate to have extensive outdoor areas that we use for Forest School and gardening, but more generally, children have space in which to learn and grow. Every child will experience Forest School and gardening during their time at school. Forest School teaches exciting outdoor skills which enable our children to assess, appreciate and take risks and make sensible, informed decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter, learning self-sufficiency and resilience, thereby, boosting self-esteem and confidence.
We teach outdoor learning so that children have hands on experiences through which they develop their understanding and application of our school values and successful learning skills. All outdoor learning is planned around the curriculum currently being studied, which gives depth, enrichment and an outdoor perspective for our children. We want children to have the opportunity to be able to explore and learn outside throughout the year, experiencing the seasons and changing nature around them. We recognise that many of our children do not get equal opportunities outside school to experience the outdoors and nature. This is why outdoor learning is central in our curriculum.
Forest School is so much more than just learning about nature. In Forest School sessions, run by Matt Harder (Bluebell Bushcraft and Forest School Association director), children have the chance to develop and grow a deep connection to the world and people around them, improve their understanding of nature, practise physical skills which are useful in later life, and a lot more besides. They make crafts, role play, discover, and most importantly, develop a sense of their important place in our ecosystem.
There is no set curriculum for Forest School, and the children can explore and learn based on their own interests. This helps to develop their skills of curiosity and independence, which are essential skills for wider learning.
You can learn more about Forest School by visiting the FSA website, www.forestschoolassociation.org
In addition to Forest School, we also encourage learning outside the classroom, using outdoor contexts, games and activities to consolidate and learn curriculum objectives.
On the day of each session, the lead teachers assess the weather conditions and make adjustments to the planned activities as necessary: Forest School takes place all year and in all weather conditions. The children are encouraged to watch the weather forecast and asked to wear clothing appropriate to the weather, although the school can supply some emergency all-weather clothing.
The sessions take place within the school grounds in our small wooded conservation area. The children are encouraged to consider their impact on the area and behave accordingly. We use a lot of wood in the process, so donations of wood that you may be cutting back from your gardens would be welcome!
We aim for every pupil to have many rich and positive outdoor learning experiences in their time at Northgate.
Year 5 and 6 have the opportunity to work in the school gardens. The children are involved in groundwork and landscaping, growing and cooking crops from the vegetable garden for our “From Field to Fork” project, together with growing flowering plants and various forms of plant propagation.
The children work in groups of 15, further divided into working parties as close supervision is required when the children use tools such as spades and forks. This is ‘proper’ gardening in which the children learn skills they can draw upon throughout their lives, as well as reinforcing classroom learning through practical work.
As growing plants is seasonal work, allowing Year 6 a second year of gardening as part of the taught curriculum gives a great opportunity for them to see the fruits of their labour. Equally, gardening is a long term venture and the children get the experience of leaving a legacy for future years at the school.