Learning through outdoor activities

Gratnells Ltd

Gratnells is a family-run business with over 100 years of history and over 40 years' experience in manufacturing storage solutions for the demanding education and medical sectors. Its award-winning trays along with its metal storage frames are found in schools throughout the UK and overseas, as well as hospitals and many varied industrial environments.

Gratnells Stage has been designed in conjunction with Anthony Hill, the UK’s premier engineer of portable staging as well as other school furniture and was created after a long history of supplying schools, colleges, churches, community groups and commercial organisations with mobile staging and represents the most up to date and effective staging technology available.

Website: www.gratnells.com/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Images courtesy of supplier. Images courtesy of supplier.

Dr Katherine Forsey is a retained consultant for Gratnells, school storage and staging providers and leading outdoor education specialist. In her role as senior panellist for Gratnells Learning Rooms, an all-embracing approach to the environment in which teachers and pupils interact, Katherine delivers practical outdoor education opportunities for school children. She believes going outdoors shouldn’t be reserved for the occasional school trip, but should be a regular, normal part of the school day at every time of year:

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.

Minibeast Habitats

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.

For more information, hints and tips on outdoor learning from Gratnells Learning Rooms, visit www.learning-rooms.com or contact [email protected] / 0800 169 6854.

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