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The powerful impact of outdoor learning

Posted: 14th March 2018

As spring approaches, children rush out into parks and gardens across the country, enjoying the sunshine (!) and the freedom of being outdoors. Given their enthusiasm, what can be hard to understand is why children don’t get outside more often as part of natural play experience?

When teachers take learning outdoors they report some powerful impacts: children’s behaviour improves, whole classes are excited to learn, and individuals thrive in an outdoor environment. When adults think of their happiest memories of childhood, they frequently recall the joy of playing outdoors. Play is not only central to children’s enjoyment of childhood, but teaches critical life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and creativity.

Here at Skippers we believe that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances. We recognise that every child is unique, each possessing hidden talents which wait, like treasure, longing to be unearthed. We foster a community of discovery which encourages every individual to find and develop these passions, seek new horizons, develop lasting friendships and achieve their potential. This holistic approach to education is not just an add-on. It is our strong belief that learning takes place beyond the confines of the classroom experience.

This last week has provided us all here of a reminder that these opportunities and experiences are key to that holistic learning experience. Our Year 7 and 8 pupils spent the week away in Jersey whilst our Year 5 pupils spent last Friday out on our wonderful campus working on a grounds day.

Both the Jersey trip and grounds day gave the pupils opportunity to demonstrate a high level of commitment and to persevere with things they may find different or difficult, whether that be being away from home for the first time or constructing a bug hotel from scratch using a range of materials that certainly tested their creative skills.

While it is possible to learn some basic concepts in class, there is no substitute for real experience in the wider world and our annual Jersey trip certainly provides a great opportunity for our Year 7 and 8 to gain such experience and face a range of challenges that can contribute significantly to their personal development.

Pupils may feel that they know their classmates and teachers well from day-to-day contact in school, but the experience of living with them in a residential community can add a completely new dimension. It raises the whole area of interpersonal skills, including leadership, teamwork, trust and respect.

There are also numerous psychological benefits to experiences such as these, particularly involving self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience. We frequently hear from teachers that pupils who may not normally shine in the classroom have excelled on a residential trip. This can all help to improve performance and relationships back at school.

It is these opportunities for pupils that help to increase their confidence, tolerance and empathy for others, help them challenge themselves and perform beyond their own expectations, to  collaborate with pupils of different ages and friendship groups and to lead and/or initiate their own activities and reflect on their role as leaders.

What grounds day has generated is a desire amongst the staff who were part of the day to better connect children  with nature so they will care about it and want to help to protect it, and we hope that it will be recognised that starting early in life is important to foster that care. Here at Skippers we are the obvious gateway for our pupils to engage in regular, high quality outdoor learning as the tool, to ensuring that they are healthy, happy and achieve their full potential, and thereby support the drive for enhanced academic performance.

So, to finish, outdoor learning isn’t a subject, it’s a way of teaching; outdoor play isn’t a fad, it’s a foundation for our children’s future learning and health and we at Skippers are committed to embracing this.


David Leggett

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