Our vision for St Thomas is that our children are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. This is one of the national outcomes that lies at the heart of ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. Learning need not take place solely within educational buildings. The outdoor environment has massive potential for learning. We are extremely fortunate to have such rich urban and rural environments on our doorsteps including our outdoor learning areas within the school grounds.
Learning outdoors can be enjoyable, creative, challenging and adventurous and helps children and young people learn by experience and grow as healthy, confident and responsible citizens who value and appreciate the spectacular landscapes, natural heritage and cultures they are part of. Learning outdoors has a solid foundation within early years settings including activities in local areas. Providing a progressive range of outdoor learning experiences as the children progress through school including, repeat visits at different levels will add depth to the totality of experiences. Each visit will offer a different perspective, enriching the curriculum and providing greater coherence.
We are committed to providing frequent and progressive outdoor learning opportunities which are embedded within our curriculum. These are delivered through a combination of school-based outdoor learning and residential programmes. Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. Our staff use the outdoor environment to provide imaginative learning and teaching which is relevant, lively and motivating.
Creative planning will allow the use of the experiences and outcomes in different outdoor contexts throughout the curriculum levels, weaving a thread of progressive outdoor learning experiences which link directly to ‘indoor’ experiences. When outdoor learning experiences are embedded in the curriculum, this cycle of learning will occur naturally.
Outdoor learning provides fresh settings for children and young people to demonstrate what they know and can do and therefore for assessing their knowledge and skills. Assessment of learning in different outdoor contexts can provide opportunities to vary levels of challenge appropriate to individuals’ needs and abilities across a broad range of personal, interpersonal and practical skills. Diverse practical contexts and high-quality interactions, immediate and constructive feedback and time for reflection contribute to the breadth and depth of assessment processes. Within the curriculum, assessment is integral to effective learning and teaching.
The school grounds are often the first step in taking pupils outdoors and for staff considering progression to learning contexts further afield. As the children move through the school at St Thomas they will learn outdoors in a variety of settings from the school grounds to visiting Dyson woods, to a day long experience including the 3 peaks challenge and to residential experiences, all at appropriate levels for their age and the curriculum.
Residential experiences to Cliffe House and Ghyll Head, offer a unique form of intensive experience which encourages children to engage with staff and peers at a deeper level and build relationships. Spending time away from the home gives children opportunities to develop: confidence, resilience, a sense of adventure, explore new places and new environments , an appreciation of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and a chance to reflect on experiences and learning.
Our well-planned outdoor learning helps develop the skills of enquiry, critical thinking and reflection necessary for our children to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges of life in the 21st century.
Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime and St Thomas is keen to see our children having positive learning experiences in a variety of settings.
Our school works with an organisation called GROW to add further expertise to our day. This team support our year 3 children, who spend a day learning outside each week. The GROW team plan with us and link our indoor curriculum to the outdoor curriculum, which helps to add meaning to what the children learn. The team also help our children to plant in our gardens, making sure that the flower beds and the community garden have fresh flowers, strawberries and plants.
If you'd like to know more about the GROW team, click here.