Read all about the first term at Scourie Early Level Class!
Every Friday morning, Scourie Early Level Class visit a local woodland, courtesy of the owners, and hold their entire session outside. The only exception, last term, was on 2 occasions when everyone had to return to the school due to midges! The children and staff come suitably clothed to brave the elements and often find it surprisingly sheltered. Trees are not a typical feature of north-west coast villages, so having access to such a mature woodland is a fantastic learning opportunity for the children.
During the first term of this academic year, the main focusses were establishing Golden Rules specially for the woodland, looking for signs of change with the seasons and building resilience. Every week staff are witnessing children developing skills such as balancing, climbing and fine motor knot tying skills. Even our youngest children have developed the resilience to cope with an entire morning outside. We do have access to a toilet!
A typical session involves the children choosing a site for their shelter which they build using sticks and tarpaulins. They love to climb in their monkey tree. We sing & act out songs such as 5 little speckled frogs. There are numeracy activities involving chalk boards and numbers and shape in the environment. Each child is extending their vocabulary as we discuss the seasonal changes within the woodland and adjoining garden and orchard. Children enjoy their snack in or close to the shelter and play lots of imaginative games. We had koala bears hugging trees one week! They listen for the sounds of the woodland and test out for boggy areas using sticks. Every week the children find something new to be excited about.
Last term ended with some fantastic apple-based activities where the children helped pick the apples in the orchard, took them back up to the school, made and drank their own freshly pressed apple juice and baked a tasty apple crumble. There certainly weren’t many food miles there!
Woodland Learning – October to December 2017
Some may think that it would not be possible to continue with our weekly outdoor learning sessions during the second term due to our north-west coast location. However our early level class missed only one week and that was because of staffing. Despite some wet days, we were still out in the shelter of the trees! Often our woodland has much calmer weather than the rest of the village.
Our themes this term included seasonal changes, hibernation and decomposition of forest materials. These themes prompted lots of discussion & language development.
We had a Social Studies theme where we looked at the local environment of the woodland. The children enjoyed following the track of the burn as it winds along. They measured using sticks and followed a rope route as it twisted through the trees & undergrowth. Then the information they gathered was used back in the school as the children produced 2D and 3D maps of the woodland.
Every session included Numeracy activities such as counting, finding numbers and mathematical talk plus Literacy activities such as mark-making, language development, stories and songs. Fine and gross motor skills continue to be developed with knot tying and shelter building being firm favourites. Our generous hosts have even installed two tree swings which the children love to play on developing balance, co-ordination, team work and safety awareness.
Climbing and balancing continue to be popular activities and the Early Level children were very impressed when the older children joined them and were able to climb so high up the trees. The younger children are inspired by the older pupils, but also enjoy telling them all about their woodland and its features. Over the course of these 2 terms, we have seen a huge development of skills and resilience amongst the pupils including tolerating the colder weather!
Imaginative play featured regularly last term, with a tree being used as a rocket with controls, then a ship with a wheel and other vehicles. It is a very versatile piece of play equipment!
On our final visit of term, we presented our woodland hosts with a felted picture that the children had made in school with a parent helper showing the woodland, the owners and their pet dog as a thank you for their generosity in allowing our weekly visits.
The children of Scourie Early Level Class have enjoyed another successful term of outdoor learning in our local woodland where they have experienced a wide range of activities and developed a variety of skills. Despite this having been the winter term and many schools having missed days due to the weather conditions, the Early Level class only cancelled one woodland day and that was due to strong winds and the danger of falling branches. The children come well dressed for an outdoor session, wearing suitable clothing and footwear. Staff are aware that being active whilst outside is important to keep the children warm, so everybody keeps moving throughout the session.
Woodland Learning – January to March 2018
This term’s activities began with creating an outdoor classroom area with donated tree stumps as seats. Our host had offered to move the stumps by wheelbarrow, but the children were eager to carry out the task themselves so spent the morning finding ways of moving the stumps and working as a team. This resulted in the children being very proud of their teaching area and having real ownership of it. This classroom is frequently rearranged by the children according to the current activity.
A lot of time has been spent measuring and comparing sizes, using non-standard units such as sticks or footsteps to measure with. The children thoroughly enjoyed creating a musical tree by using a variety of metal objects to hang from a tree and then hit to create a percussion instrument. There have also been some Science-based activities looking at a variety of fabrics and materials and their uses. There has been a great deal of discussion about what wood from the trees may be used for.
Of course, with the onset of Spring, the children have been looking for signs of growth and change within the woodland and formal garden. They were delighted to see that the bulbs that they planted in their own specially cordoned-off area are now in bloom with a lovely show of tulips and daffodils amongst the trees.
Our outdoor learning is not just limited to each Friday. The children were delighted to make soup as part of their ‘in school’ session one Thursday to then take to the woodland the next day in flasks as that day’s snack. A cup of warm homemade soup is a great way of keeping warm!
Our woodland learning has had such a positive influence across the school that, this term, our senior class have chosen to join us on a Friday morning. They have been taking their Maths & Literacy learning outdoors which has thrilled the younger pupils who love sharing the space. Each group has their own activities during the morning, but get together at snack-time to share their experiences and enjoy a sociable time together.
We are delighted that our hosts are so obliging to allow the school access to their woodland and are so welcoming to us all.
Our term finished with an Easter egg hunt around the garden. Unfortunately the Easter Bunny was unable to attend, so the children had to hide the eggs for their parents to find. The children had prepared invitations in advance, informing their parents & carers of the event, so they were delighted to see so many attend. The parents and families hugely support our outdoor learning and frequently supply cakes and treats for the snack. We would like to express our thanks to all our families for their support.
As you can read above, each woodland visit contains a wide variety of activities, promotes a breadth of discussion, develops many fine and gross motor skills and incorporates all areas of the curriculum. Our staff are very enthusiastic about our woodland learning and would highly recommend it to all ages of children.