“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” Sir David Attenborough
At St. Helen’s we consider outdoor learning to be all learning experiences that take place outdoors, including discovery, experimentation, learning about and connecting to the natural world, and engaging in environmental and adventurous activities.
We make the most of our school’s natural landscape and the changeable North Devon weather! We believe there’s no such thing as bad weather (providing you have the right clothing!) and St. Helen’s children will learn outdoors come rain or shine. We make the most of the seasons that provide a continual cycle of change and signify the festivals of the year, and we make the most of the wide open spaces that provide freedom from the restrictions of the classroom.
Our innovative ‘Curriculum 360’ is holistic and child-centred, considering the full 360° of each child’s educational experience. Our ‘C360’ is enriched by outdoor learning activities that link to our termly learning themes: ‘Social Justice’, ‘Spirituality: Mind, Body & Soul’ and ‘Stewardship’ which are designed to teach children to care for others, themselves and the world.
These themes support and affirm our commitment to ensuring that all children develop three key ‘transformative competencies’ they need to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We aim to empower our children to truly believe they can help shape a world where sustainable development, including social cohesion, well-being and environmental stewardship are achievable – for others, for themselves and for the planet.
These transformative competencies (more information below) involve the types of knowledge, skills and character virtues children will need in order to contribute to and flourish in our world, transform society and shape the future as global citizens and inspiring change-makers.
All four cornerstones of our C360 are experienced through outdoor learning:
- We believe that taking learning outdoors has a significant impact on children’s academic learning and performance. Research shows that we thrive when we spend time outdoors - our cognitive, social, emotional and physical health improves, especially in a natural environment.
- Outdoor learning involves the transformation of knowledge, skills and attitudes through direct engagement with the natural environment. This transformation may be spiritual as children’s spiritual learning journeys move between thinking about the self, others, the world and beauty and beyond.
- Every child is unique and has different skills and talents. The outdoor environment is a uniquely inclusive environment that offers all children opportunities to flourish, develop their independence and achieve things to be proud of.
- The outdoors is the ultimate enabling environment full of resources for learning across the curriculum, including opportunities to teach key aspects of the Science, Geography and D&T programmes of study in real world contexts. This type of learning increases children’s engagement and makes learning more meaningful, rewarding and fun! Purposeful experiences in the outdoors are a catalyst for powerful and memorable learning.
- Outdoor learning offers unique challenges to increase children’s physical activity and improve their physical and mental health and well-being. The great thing is children will be having so much fun, they won’t even realise they are exercising!
- Children need a wide variety of opportunities to develop specific skills such as communication and perseverance. Through purposeful, rewarding outdoor activities children can engage with their learning, develop a positive attitude, extend their concentration span and develop skills and interests that will stay with them for life.
- The types of open-ended activities that feature in outdoor learning require children to be creative, think critically and solve problems. Children need to work collaboratively, thinking ‘outside the box’ to find solutions to novel problems.
- Outdoor learning lends itself to practical engagement and appropriate risk taking. Children need these opportunities in order to build their confidence, spatial awareness, physical strength and the ability to keep themselves safe in an ever-changing and unpredictable world.
- Things do not always work the first time outdoors, so children need to practise perseverance and resilience. This builds their sense of self efficacy.
- Outdoor learning is a vital component of our Character Education Programme which ensures all children have opportunities to develop moral, civic, intellectual and performance virtues of good character, such as: thankfulness, courage, practicality and motivation.
- Children take part in a range of exciting planned and ad hoc enrichment activities where they can learn new skills and develop their confidence.
- Outdoor learning provides vital opportunities to teach children about the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things and to develop a sense of responsibility as global citizens.
- When learning outdoors, children tend to work in groups, take turns, share resources and collaborate. They learn to negotiate, compromise and reconcile disagreements. Outdoor learning provides unique opportunities to extend these vital social skills.
- Outdoor learning provides opportunities for children to engage with the natural environment, experience and develop an empathic relationship and caring attitude towards nature, and to wonder in awe at God’s creation. They will experience the joy, freedom, creativity and inspiration that the outdoors has to offer.
The following three transformative competencies are taught through learning opportunities incorporated into our C360. These competencies are transferable across a range of situations and will stand children in good stead throughout their lifetime.
Innovation - thinking ‘outside the box’ - Purposefully using curiosity, creativity and critical thinking to develop new knowledge, ideas and strategies. Working collaboratively to find new solutions in order to shape a better future and become inspiring change-makers.
Agency - taking responsibility for our actions - Understanding that our actions have consequences and that we have the power to influence our lives and the world around us, therefore we must take responsibility for our actions, develop self awareness and self reflection, be guided by integrity, and treat others with compassion and respect.
Co-agency - understanding others and working together to create change - Understanding that everything in life is interconnected and interdependent, and developing a sense of responsibility towards others. Understanding different points of view and finding practical ways to reconcile dilemmas and conflicts and work collaboratively to effect positive change.