Allanton Primary Nursery Class
In 2011, Allanton Primary Nursery Class from North Lanarkshire Council received £500 Learning Outdoors grant funding to transform their overgrown nursery garden within their school grounds. The aim of their project was to create a special, stimulating natural play environment for their nursery children to explore and learn within. Nursery staff used floor books to consult with the children about what they what they would like to have within their new area, the children then drew and described their idea’s to staff.
The funding received by the Allanton Primary Nursery Class, was match funded through fundraising events organised by nursery staff and the parents’ committee. The nursery also enlisted the support from the local authority’s Restorative Justice Team’s community payback squad in order to assist with the hands-on grounds work.
Four months and 2000 man hours later, the nursery’s overgrown, under-utilised garden area has been completely transformed into a stimulating, fun outdoor classroom. It provides the nursery children with stimulating opportunities for sensory/natural play and learning as well as raised planters for growing vegetable/plants allowing the children to learn about the environment in a positive, productive way.
Their project has truly enriched their outdoor environment with natural materials which stimulates the children’s senses and provides a wide range of learning experiences and outcomes from the Curriculum for Excellence.
Currie Community High School
In 2011, Currie Community High School in Edinburgh received a £500 Learning Outdoors grant funding to develop their school grounds and purchase equipment. The school applied for funding to develop a project which would increase the use of the school’s established pond within their wildlife garden, for teaching and learning.
For the past 4 years, classes had been unable to use the pond as a teaching tool for pupils to learn about biodiversity, ecosystems, sampling, etc. as direct access to the pond was unsafe due to an untreated wooden decking area/platform, combined with a lack of suitable equipment for pond dipping.
Funding allowed them to further develop their wildlife pond by purchasing materials to improve the decking around the wildlife pond. Pupils also volunteered after school during January and February to clean and treat the decking, attach chicken wire and make it safer and accessible for classes in all weather conditions. The Quadrangle, containing the wildlife garden and pond, is now considered safe for unsupervised pupil use, and has become an area where senior pupils also spend time socialising during breaks.
To further enhance teaching and learning opportunities, the school also used the funding to purchase a whole class set of pond dipping equipment, including pond nets, trays, bug pots and ID keys. This has resulted in a lesson on sampling freshwater organisms being included in their new S1/2 Curriculum for Excellence Science course. It has also meant that younger pupils can now investigate pond life first hand. The newly funded kit, also allowed older pupils to sample life within the nearby burn, and compare this with organisms found in the pond.
Our Lady and St Joseph’s Nursery Class
In 2011, Our Lady and St Josephs nursery class from North Lanarkshire Council received £500 Learning Outdoors grant funding to further develop their pre-existing Forest Kindergarten project and introduce the concept into their primary school classes. Our Lady and St Joseph’s Nursery class focus was upon developing their local surrounding woodlands which lie within the schools grounds, (this in turn also developing their school grounds) for learning and natural play, through the delivery of regular forest kindergarten sessions.
In order to do so, they used the funding to purchase sets of appropriate waterproof trousers and jackets for their children to enable them to use their woodlands in all weather conditions.The nursery found that the funding allowed them to purchase 30 sets of waterproofs, which has in turn enabled them to take all of their pre-school children outdoors, once a week to participate in Forest Kindergarten sessions and freely explore their surrounding woodlands.
The nursery used the remainder of the funding to enhance the children’s learning and development through the purchase of woodland-based resources and equipment. This included: transparent den covers (tarpaulins), which allow the children to watch the rain falling; hammocks to allow a space for the children to relax in; wind-up torches which encourage woodland exploration; and waterproof notebooks which provided the children with opportunities to develop their early literacy and writing skills.
The nursery has found that all of their purchased materials and equipment are being used regularly within their forest kindergarten projects and also within their nursery setting, in turn enhancing all aspects of the children’s learning both within their school grounds and in the surrounding woodlands.
Townhill Primary School
In 2011, Townhill Primary School, Hamilton, received £500 Learning Outdoors grant funding to increase and enhance opportunities for outdoor learning. Outdoor Learning being a priority in both the school’s and South Lanarkshire Council’s education resources improvement plans.
The school was able to match fund their £500 from the learning outdoors fund, through fundraising events within the school. This innovative and creative approach allowed the school to further enhance their provision of curriculum for excellence and enriching learning experiences for all.
In order to increase and enhance outdoor learning opportunities within the whole school, Townhill Primary’s focus for the funding was for it to contribute towards provision of CPD (continual professional development) and staff training. Every member of staff participated in training which focused on taking the curriculum outdoors and how to use their outdoor space more effectively across all area’s of the curriculum. This brought lots of new ideas and strategies for outdoor learning and teaching particularly in mathematics, science and literacy.
The school also used the funding to contribute towards the purchase of waterproof equipment and waterproof clothing for the children within the school. This has enabled the children to venture outside more than we could before. We are now seeing the benefits that this is providing through more effective use of the outdoor classroom, no matter what the weather is like. For example, some of the infant classes participated in various outdoor lessons including planting seedlings within the school grounds, as well as enjoying storytelling session outdoors. Smiling and happy faces told us they enjoyed these types of learning activities.
Supporting children’s learning through outdoor learning was a feature that staff at the school wanted to explore further. The funding helped towards supporting a targeted CPD programme for staff in order to look at how we could make better use of the outdoor space we have at Townhill Primary. There is no doubt this funded project has enabled the school to further enhance each child’s learning opportunities through the use of the outdoors.