Although we are a city-based school, we value our outdoor spaces at Fairlawn and seek to utilise every centimetre! For example, we maintain thriving vegetable plots and planters around our school grounds and have a Golden Garden (commemorating Fairlawn’s 50th anniversary) which lends itself to outdoor Circle Times and reading buddies.
Alongside our topic-based learning approach, teachers plan elements of outdoor learning. Broadly, this falls into two categories; learning IN the outdoors and learning ABOUT the outdoors. As well as using our immediate environment, we capitalise on the great local venues on our doorstep, such as The Devonshire Nature Reserve, One Tree Hill and Horniman Gardens. Further afield, our residential school journeys, which are offered in Year 3, 5 and 6, have strong outdoor elements embedded in their programmes. For example in Year 5, the children have opportunities to sail, kayak, shelter build and tackle high rope challenges.
Children at Fairlawn take part in weekly Forest School activities with a trained Forest School teacher. Forest School is an outdoor approach to learning that is child-led; they choose their own activities and ‘learn through doing’ and exploration.
We have access to a green site, our ‘Golden Garden’ on the school grounds and our commitment to visit the same site over a period of time is crucial to children’s understanding of the seasons and how the natural landscape changes.
Through Forest School there are opportunities for discovery, for physical challenges, for dramatic play, teambuilding and creative problem solving. There are opportunities for art and craft, environmental games or learning through storytelling and song.
Through teaching children small achievable and progressively more challenging tasks, they can achieve something that would have seemed impossible. Young children are taught to use small hand tools in a safe environment; such as being shown how to use peelers to peel sticks. Opportunities for taking appropriate risks are linked to a growth in confidence and enhancement of self-esteem and independence.
Children learn about their local environment, what can be found there and its uses. By only taking what is necessary; they learn to respect their environment and to be caretakers of the Earth. They develop and nurture respect and responsibility for themselves, other people and the environment in an empowering experience, which is also exciting, healthy and fun!