Wishford Schools

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How the great outdoors enriches education

At Hatherop Castle School, the ethos that underpins all of our learning is the Adventure of Childhood. We are fortunate to have incredible grounds for our children to explore and learn in and we pride ourselves in making this outdoor space integral to the school journey. So, how do we live up to our motto and how does the great outdoors enrich our children’s education?

The last two years has seen a further increase in the use of our outdoor space for everyday lessons whether that is reading in the treehouse, role play on the outdoor stage or building dens in the new forest school setting. Our outdoor space is in greater demand by all teachers than ever before.

With the enhancement of the new treehouse classroom and a new forest school setting for the pre-prep and prep school the pupils at Hatherop Castle are more fortunate than ever.

Studies in recent years have highlighted the multitude of health benefits to an outdoor education. The benefits of learning outside the classroom are endless. Being outdoors brings with it a sense of freedom that is fantastic for a child’s development both physically and mentally. Daily exposure to a natural setting increases a child’s ability to focus and therefore enhances cognitive ability as well as supporting the development of a healthy and active lifestyle for the future. Those children who play outdoors are much more likely to continue to enjoy outdoor activities as adolescences and into adulthood.

Learning in an outdoor environment allows children to interact with the elements around us and helps them to gain an understanding of the world we live in. Children will gain a natural respect for nature, the environment and the interdependence of humans, animals, plants and lifecycles. Very young children learn predominantly through their sensory and physical experiences which supports brain development and the creation of neural networks and pathways.

Children will experience the peace and tranquillity of nature, time is set aside for listening and reflection. They will see first hand the seasonal changes on plants and trees and learn about animal habitats, the weather and the impact humans can have on the environment. It also provides a chance to talk freely about what they have done and give a real sense of purpose to their speech. The extra space offered by being outdoors will give children the sense of freedom to make discoveries themselves. They can develop their own ideas or create games and activities to take part in with their friends without feeling like they are being directly supervised. This fosters a ‘can do’ attitude which will act as a solid foundation for future learning.

Outdoors education also provides children with more opportunities to experience risk-taking. They have the chance to take part in tasks on a much bigger scale and complete them in ways they might not do when they’re indoors. This in turn build’s self-confidence and resilience in our young people as they have to make decisions, think critically and take control of their environment.

Anyone who takes children outside regularly for learning sees the enjoyment, sense of wonder and excitement that is generated when children engage with the natural environment. Activities in the natural world connect us on a fundamental level to who we are and give us a real sense of what we are.