Unlocking the potential of your school grounds

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Unlocking the potential of your school grounds

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  • 1. outlook • May 2007 groundnotes July 2009 Schoolgrounds-UK and varied, not least the weather and perceived behavioural issues. However, many schools are solving these issues, and even finding that their worries are unfounded – especially in the context of behaviour, since many of the children who don’t settle well indoors flourish and are more on-task when working actively outside. The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) suggests that throughout the early years foundation stage 50% of outdoor learning is a reasonable expectation, 10 to 20% throughout primary school and into KS3, and as high as 5-15% in KS4 and above. Approaches recommended include planning percentages of curriculum time for LOtC in every subject or allocating a regular slot in the week for everyone. Certainly, thinking ahead is vital – curriculum planning should include working out which aspect of a theme, topic or learning outcome could be delivered best using the outdoors. Here to inspire you are some examples of curriculum activities for all ages, from Unlocking the potential of a variety of schools, all of which make good use of the space, features and special your school grounds nature of the outdoors: • sensory treasure hunt including making and tasting herb teas around your school grounds with new – stimulating, hands-on learning. eyes – and challenge yourself to identify • making and baking gingerbread useful features that could help you to men on an open fire – a good deliver a different key aspect of the core opportunity to learn fire safety. curriculum, a vital initiative or offer added • finding out about wind resistance value to the community. After all, your using large plastic sheeting and mesh to outdoor space is a resource that’s every make dens. bit as valuable as your school building. • making story thrones – an outdoor In this Groundnotes, school grounds art project linked to planning a story professional Felicity Robinson goes back circle. This was big and messy, making to basics and helps you ensure you are good use of the outdoors. unlocking your school grounds full • designing an outdoor stage using potential, with ideas for: scrap materials – spatial design and • curriculum delivery problem solving. • supporting initiatives • extra curricular activities How can you make sure you are using • practical pointers for successful ‘The first-hand experiences of outdoor experiences. your school grounds to their full learning outside the classroom can help to make subjects potential? Lots of schools up and down the country – large and small, rural and curriculum delivery more vivid and interesting urban – are already using their school outdoors for pupils and enhance their grounds every day to enhance learning When teachers are asked to estimate the understanding. It can also and play. Others are keen to offer more percentage of time they use the outdoors contribute significantly to opportunities to get the most out of their as a teaching environment, it is clear that pupils’ personal, social and school grounds but need new inspiration older children benefit very little from core emotional development.’ and ideas. Even if you already have time outside – often the figure is as low as Learning Outside the Classroom: how outdoor experiences embedded in your 0.1% and seldom higher than 5% for Year far should we go? Ofsted 2008 school ethos, it can pay to take a look 6 and above. The reasons given are many learning through landscapes
  • 2. groundnotes • July 2009 • stay safe – being sun aware, learning about risk and challenge • enjoy and achieve – enjoying learning and socialising through a range of learning styles and social spaces • make a positive contribution – being part of the process of developing external learning environments • achieve economic well-being – developing practical skills, knowledge and enterprise. Find out more by visiting www. everychildmatters.gov.uk. Healthy schools You can help reinforce and support many aspects of healthy schools outdoors by, for example: • growing food and promoting healthy eating • being active • ensuring drinking water is available at all times to all students • addressing sun-shade issues • helping to address bullying and behavioral issues • supporting emotional health and well-being • big art weaving through trees using • PSHE circle debate sitting on the • developing self-esteem. scrap – a large scale, whole-body activity grass – the Year 6 teachers commented Find out more by visiting www. for reception children (see above). that ‘The children were more focused healthyschools.gov.uk; • building raised beds – this involved on the topic than on jostling and www.ltscotland.org.uk/ large scale measuring and ergonomics disturbing each other’. healthpromotingschools to plan the optimum size. • identifying and drawing 2D and • fair-testing friction experiments 3D shapes found in the grounds for Growing schools using pull back cars, meter sticks and maths. Supporting the growth of plants and different ground surfaces. The plenary • resistant materials (Year 8) caring for animals in the grounds is of was also held outside around a chalked – identification of structural materials key importance. This can be as simple feedback ‘house’. The children enjoyed used in the grounds, researching as developing and managing wildlife the fresh air, space to work, and their properties and considering habitats, or growing fruit and vegetables, self-management of their task. sustainability criteria. or more complex – for example, animal • micro-climate survey using wind • geography (Year 9) – students had husbandry. Find out more by visiting spinners and thermometers to plan to assess 10 places of their choice in the www.growingschools.org.uk. a new quiet garden and seating area grounds against climate criteria, to plan – using the special nature of outdoors a good place for eating lunch. Sustainable and eco-schools for a real-world problem-solving task. • science (Year 10) – students Experiences in the school grounds prepare • D&T project to design and make performed a demonstration of parallax, children and young people to make a range of cloches for a growing commenting: ‘We understand more… sustainable choices throughout their lives. garden – real problem solving, plus you get to join in and test things for Through working in their grounds children production of practical resources for the yourself.’ understand better what sustainable garden club. choices mean, and can test, experiment supporting initiatives and demonstrate sustainable design and outdoors environmental impact. Find out more by visiting www.teachernet.gov.uk/ Your school grounds are not just spaces sustainableschools; to learn and play – they can also support www.eco-schools.org.uk. a wide variety of initiatives aimed at improving children’s lives. In many cases, Extended schools school inspections and self-evaluation will Putting schools at the heart of also cover the contribution schools make communities – with a range of services for to these initiatives, and making clear how pupils, families and the wider community, new projects meet these aims may make including breakfast clubs, after-school funding easier to attain. care, and family learning – is central to the Extended Schools program. Extended Every Child Matters activities that might particularly make use Here are the five Every Child Matters of the school grounds include early years objectives and suggestions on how your day care, for example, a crèche, adult school grounds can help meet them: recreation, sport and adult learning. Find • be healthy – active play, growing and out more by visiting www.teachernet. eating fruit and vegetables gov.uk/extendedschools. unlocking the potential of your school grounds
  • 3. Making it work groundnotes • July 2009Here are some key points for successfuloutdoor experiences that teachershave identified:• be flexible so you can adapt to changes in weather. With the right clothing and footwear much is possible• get parents onboard – they can be very supportive when they understand the learning taking place during outdoor activities• have easy access to clip boards and other resources• use pencils outside – they work better on damp paper• identify a gathering place and boundaries for the task in hand• use a special sound/horn/ whistle to gather children back when dispersed (for more on behaviour management see ‘Further resources’)• develop teacher confidence with support and observation – there is sometimes a tendency for less confident staff to focus on behaviour issues rather than learning opportunities• remember, it does not have to be a whole session outside – you might just need a 10 minute task to gather some data, or do a demonstration• take advantage of opportunities as they arise. For example, at one school finding Brushwood Junior School is in the were developed through setting up the remains of a fox’s lunch led to market town of Chesham and takes the dig grid, taking area and perimeter some impromptu discussion and children from a mixed catchment of measurements, data analysis, working questions about death, the food affluent and deprived postcodes. Forty per with Roman numerals and investigating chain, predators and carnivores! cent of the pupils come from two of the tessellating mosaics. most deprived postcodes nationally. Map-reading skills, arial photosextra curricular use of In April last year, the school ran a and discussion on settlement patternsschool grounds cross-curricular project focusing on an led to further work in geography and archaeological dig. The project was DT, including drawing floor plans andSchool grounds can be an excellent planned and implemented with the making model villas, jewellery andfocus for extra curricular activities support of a professional archaeologist and costumes. The discovery of the artefactssuch as: students from University College London. led to questioning, interpretation,• pedestrian and cycle safety Over the easter break the outlines of debate, testing hypotheses and critical training With links to your school a Roman villa were constructed in the thinking as well as being an exciting travel plan, support from your local grounds, in stone, with relevant artefacts and engaging physical outdoor authority road safety teams and buried. Children came back at the activity. Language development was parent volunteers, your grounds beginning of term to a week-long ‘dig’ another key outcome with children can be a safe practice zone to project, now also a permanent feature that encountering Latin for the first time. develop pedestrian and cycle skills. will be a resource for years to come, for all They also learned technical words and aspects of the curriculum. techniques used by archaeologists. The schools Ofsted targets are to The project was designed to be encourage writing and presentation skills, inclusive. One student in a wheelchair and this project provided many relevant couldn’t get on to the dig site itself opportunities – including newspaper but he could sift material so his group reports, story making, re-enactments, excavated some scorched seeds and writing fact sheets about Roman life and charcoal. ‘dig’ instructions. Headteacher Ray Plimsaul says: The project also supported science ‘Anyone could set this up. It’s in a number of ways, including a experiential learning that the children decomposition experiment, floatation will never forget. The concepts, the to separate materials, looking at bones, questioning, the richness of language and learning about convection currents that has come out of this is remarkable. (Roman heating systems). Numeracy skills The children are living their education.’ unlocking the potential of your school grounds
  • 4. groundnotes • July 2009 further resources Available to download from the Member Services pages of our website: • Groundnotes Sustainable school grounds, Growing food in the school grounds, Design and technology in the school grounds, Environmental art, Managing behaviour in the outdoor classroom • Profiles An introduction to extended schools, Every Child Matters Website • The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’s website www.lotc. org.uk provides a lot of guidance for curriculum planning, planning for progression and ways to make learning ‘irresistible’. There is also guidance on engaging with parents, and advice on developing a LOtC policy. Books • History in the School Grounds by Jacqui Dean; Arts in the Schools Grounds and English in the School Grounds by Brian Keaney; Science in the School Grounds by Jill Thomas; Phyical Education in the School Grounds by Sue Chedzoy; Mathematics in the School Grounds by Zoe Rhydderch-Evans; Geography in the School Grounds by R Hare, C Attenborough, T Day; Personal, Social and Health Education in the School Grounds by R Hare, C Attenborough and T Day. All written for Learning through To help unlock the potential of their us the opportunity to break out of Landscapes and available from Southgate grounds Amersham School – a business the mould. By moving the classroom Publishers. Visit www.southgate publishers. and enterprise secondary college in outside we are able to perform more co.uk or call 01363 776888. Buckinghamshire – took part in a Creative practical hands-on maths – including Partnerships project to focus on the transformations, graphing, measuring, School grounds professional Felicity outdoors as a learning environment. and even finding approximations to Pi.’ Robinson, a long-term associate of LTL, With the support of a team of teachers The lead teacher summarised the can be contacted at commonwood@ and a landscape architect, over a two impact of the project on the school: btinternet.com. month period the students and staff ‘It’s made the school look at the real explored their site from the perspective potential for using a more imaginative of several curriculum subjects, looking teaching environment and has created at the opportunities they already had for a forum for more cross-curricular developing learning resources, as well as discussion, and exploration of shared suggesting ideas for future development. teaching and learning areas.’ Comments One teacher commented, ‘We are from students included: ‘I can listen and always looking for innovative ways to grab contribute more – I have learnt to speak the interest of our students. As a maths out and my ideas will be listened to’ and teacher it can be difficult to achieve this. ‘I never thought I would look forward to The Creative Partnership project gave coming to school’. • growing clubs which could also help club and investigate habitats such with regular grounds maintenance, as cracks in walls and pavements, as well as the more common seasonal and the impact of micro-climates © This resource was originally gardening projects. Some schools take on minibeasts. Local expertise to created as part of the Schoolgrounds-UK on large-scale, family-focus allotments support these activities can be found membership scheme from the and others make a very positive impact in wildlife organisations and school national school grounds charity in their school grounds with planters community amateur experts. Learning through Landscapes operating in Scotland as and tubs. • sports clubs Many varied clubs can Grounds for Learning • wildlife clubs which could take use your school grounds, and some (registered charity no. in England and Wales responsibility for habitat management schools are introducing new activities 803270 and in Scotland SCO38890). including going into the pond for such as parkour (free-running) to To find out more about the annual weed clearance! Even the enthuse young people to be more membership call 01962 845811 smallest urban site can have a wildlife active! or visit www.ltl.org.uk unlocking the potential of your school grounds