With the school curriculum placing a strong emphasis on using the outdoors, with topics such as plants, habitats and seasonal change, it is clear to see the links and almost impossible to cover these areas effectively without going outside. There are many cross-curricular links too, with opportunities for integration of literacy and numeracy for a start. Use of an Outdoor Learning Room can occur across all subject areas if built into curriculum planning, with clear learning objectives that consider what your students will be learning, how it is best learned, and the most effective place for this to take place.
Perfect for the dark, secluded corners of your school grounds, creating minibeast habitats is simple and your students will love exploring them. Using logs, twigs and leaf mould/litter, choose a site that is both well-shaded and damp to create your habitat piles. Pick a secluded spot with as little foot traffic as possible. Under tree canopies where the grass doesn’t grow is a good place, just make sure the branches are high enough to be out of the way of pupils and teachers.
Ponds are a brilliant resource for outdoor learning and a valuable habitat for wildlife. But if you don’t have a pond, or if you have inherited an unloved pond, what can you do? The best time of year to create a new pond is during the autumn, as this will give it time to settle before the spring. Look for a level area, with partial sunshine, away from main thoroughfares and aim for a natural deeper area to attract the most wildlife.
Story Sticks and Sticky Strips
Picking leaves and ﬂowers isn’t always necessary. Spotter sheets for different seasons can be ticked off to record your ﬁnds, and are great if you only have small quantities of plant material or will be surveying the same area repeatedly. You can also make your own ﬂower bingo cards tailored to your own site, or a free app like Pic Collage great is great for snapping and collating your ﬁnds. Flowers can be collected on sticky strips by taking ‘fairy pinches’ of individual petals so as not to destroy the ﬂower.
Teaching outdoors is how we can make learning come alive for our students, enriching all subject areas, engaging and inspiring children to take their studies further. It’s only when you go outside and ﬁnd real world examples that diagrams and theories have context, resonance and meaning.