As Spring arrives and the weather turns a little warmer, the outside beckons and it’s a great time to think about how to incorporate the outdoors into learning. The Nature Premium Campaign seeks to increase children’s engagement with nature and realise the huge number of associated benefits. Led by the Forest School Association (FSA), the campaign states that the Nature Premium would help children recover from lockdown, and set them up to learn as well as being crucial to their mental health and wellbeing. Children love to be outside, and after months of lockdown still taking its toll, we’ve put together some ideas for taking learning outside and using nature to inspire creativity.
Let’s go outside!
One of the simplest ways to get outside during the school day is to take storytime outdoors. Whether it be to sitting in a bespoke outdoor learning space, or simply a patch of grass in the play area, children will happily sit and listen whilst a story is being read.
For added creativity, take your art lesson outdoors and use nature as inspiration for topic work and creative writing. Trees, plants, flowers, insects; all manner of wildlife is out there, and children love to explore. Build on their natural curiosity and see what they can discover on a nature walk. Better still, give each child a pot to collect the things they find most interesting in, reminding them to be mindful of insects who might prefer to stay in their natural habitat! Use the items they find to inspire drawings, stories and poems about their discoveries and nature walk experience.
We’re often so busy we don’t get time to stop and listen to the world around us. Taking children outside to sit and listen to nature is a brilliant way to help them discover nature’s soundscapes. Whether you’re in a city school or rural location, invite children to share what they hear- can they listen out for birds, bees, the wind in the trees, in between all the other noises they can hear?! And when you go back to the classroom, invite them to recreate the soundscape with their voices, through movement or even with musical instruments. They might even like to invent their own soundscape for a place they’d love to visit or a place from a story they have read!
Start a conversation
Encouraging children to explore local wildlife and habitats is a great way to start conversations and support their communication skills development. Whether you’re simply asking them to describe what they see, or doing more in-depth analysis of habitats, flora and fauna, children will be able to practise language and vocabulary skills. You’ll also be able to demonstrate the changing seasons and raise environmental awareness, as children discover for themselves the impact of things like littering, lack of rain and lack of care for outdoor spaces.
How does your garden grow?
Creating a nature garden in school can be a wonderful way to take learning outside. Children can be involved in the entire process, from raising funds, to designing and planting the garden. You could hold a competition to see who can create the best design (perhaps inspired by their favourite book!) and put the winning entry into practice. Remind them to include a spot for reading and even a library shed! Not only will children benefit from creating the garden, but it can also become a brilliant learning or reading for pleasure space. Don’t forget to ask the school community and PTA to get involved and visit RHS for more ideas. https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/resources/info-sheet/setting-up-a-school-garden
Find out about local Forest School provision in your area. Offering a huge range of activities, Forest School is a fantastic route to nature for children, teachers and families. With everything from nature walks to building dens and campfires, a whole range of experiences can be had and incorporated into the school day or as an after school club. Visit the Forest Schools Association website to find a local provider in your area. Find a Forest School Provider | Forest School Association