At Whitefield Infant School, we use the outdoors as our 'Classroom Under the Sky', which is roofed only by the clouds! It acts as an outdoor classroom where children can explore, investigate and discover the natural environment, alongside developing their language and gaining first-hand learning experiences. It provides a valuable teaching tool for teaching and learning in all curriculum areas. Our 'Classroom Under the Sky' uses the Forest School Principles, interwoven with our own visions and values and beliefs about how our children learn.
What is a Forest School?
Key Features of Forest Schools:-
At Whitefield we take these features and weave them into our outside learning, linking them into the curriculum making it become more alive, exciting and real.
Every half term we have a different topic which we base our learning on.
In the EYFS our topics have been:-
In KS1 the Year 2 children have been using the outdoors to bring Geography to life.
They have linked geography to literacy - in this way they are more in tuned with the stories and it has helped with their understanding and own pieces of writing.
We used The Great Explorer to begin our learning, looking at what equipment an explorer would need, the need for team work if you are to survive and achieve your mission and very simple map making. In the EYFS area they created their own world of rivers, mountains, icebergs, lakes and oceans. They had a base camp from which to start their adventures and to return to for refreshments at the end.
Our next book took us into the land of The Lonely Beast. The children had to work in teams to locate the beast and used Ipads to record their work. They built upon their knowledge of geographical features to create their own maps using pictures of the Lonely Beast and writing clues to his location.
Our third book was The Queen's hat. The children were now very good at team work and applying their knowledge of the EYFS area where their learning had been based. Each team created their own story of the Queen's hat, drew maps and recorded it's adventures using Ipads. They then tested each other by handing over the necessary information for another team to locate pictures of their own hat and it's adventures.
We now have a year group of explorers.
Year 2 have been learning about habitats in Science.
We are so lucky because on our doorstep we have the canal, a super habitat to learn about and one we can learn about safely as we look through the railings.
The children have noted what makes up the microhabitats - water, trees, grass and soil - and looked for creatures who may be inhabiting them. They have explored the flower beds in the playground, digging in the soil to locate mini beast.
The children have also been looking further afield (with the aid of laptops) at other habitats such as the rain forest and the desert.
The next step is to look at how food chains work in these habitats.
I often get asked "Is it our turn to go outside?"
Here are some of the children's comments so you can understand why they want to go out to learn.
"I like going out because it is fun".
"We cook lots of food".
"I like finding birds".
"We had a big wedding for the Smurfs and everyone could come".
"When we are outside it doesn't matter if we get wet and muddy".
"I can build anything".
"It's just good"