At Hamstel Infant School, we believe it is vital for children to experience natural environments. This helps children of all ages and abilities to reflect, to understand and manage risk, to experience the sense of calm and well-being that the outdoors and nature offers, to learn to act independently and with others in a range of situations and to learn in a larger, freer context.
Hamstel Infant School believes exposure to the natural environment is also important because it supports deeper learning across a range of curriculum areas and offers opportunity for exploration and investigation.
As part of our commitment to the value of outdoor learning we employ a full-time Wildlife specialist, Mr Darke, who is trained in Forest School approaches to learning. He works in collaboration with the teaching team to provide a rich and engaging environment and activities and each class spends a day every three weeks learning outside. In addition, the school runs an Outdoor Learning club where the children experience different things each week such as making mud gargoyles with natural resources and climbing across a rope and other Forest School based activities.
Whilst being outside, the children in each year group are learning about a variety of important skills using the natural environment that surrounds them. Furthermore, each year group has time around a real fire, either in the hobbit hut or outside. The children also have opportunities to use a fire lighter and to experience the feel and sight of a log fire in our Scandinavian log cabin which we call our ‘Hobbit Hut’.
Progression of Skills and Experiences
In Reception, it is important for children to learn how to share and take turns and develop a sense of how to be safe in different situations. They have also used the experience of outside to notice natural things and name them, to count and classify and to create with and manipulate natural resources, noticing how they feel, smell and look. This helps all children enjoy their learning and grow in confidence and self-esteem.
In Years 1 and 2, we believe being outside also supports deeper learning. Whilst outside, the children explore a range of subjects such as Geography, History and Science, Art, etc. through activities related to their half termly topic/ theme.
In Year 1 they regularly notice and record seasonal changes and weather types. They have interpreted information based on an “alien spacecraft crash”, producing news reports in response and they have made and tested their own houses using straw and wood to investigate how fire spread in the Great Fire of London.
Elouise (Year 1) said, “Mr Darke lined all our houses up, then with a lighter he started a fire. I was really excited to watch how quickly fire can spread.”
In Year 2 the children have learnt how to prepare and cut a variety of vegetables for a Victorian broth which was enjoyed by all around the fire that they used to cook it on. They have also made habitats for mini- beasts using natural resources and re-enacted the journey of Hansel and Gretel throught the woods for their story based topic, experiencing the atmosphere of the wood to enhance their story settings.They also experienced how difficult it would be to travel to the South Pole carrying all the heavy equipment on a sledge and in backpacks for the topic on explorers. Max (Year 2) said, “I really enjoyed pulling the sledge even though it was hard work.”