Learning about nature isn't just something for Science - though learning about living things, food chains and habitats is very important. Children also use strong experiences with the outdoors and nature to inspire creative learning, they enjoy curiosity and discovery when playing and develop positive spiritual growth as they explore what it is to be alive and the importance of protecting life.
We have carefully designed our grounds to maximise the biodiversity that children can experience. There are deliberately 'corridors' of trees and planting that allow birds and animals to track from the surrounding countryside into our site. As a result children in Class 3 often watch spotted woodpeckers from their classroom window coming right up to the building, using trees as cover. The different habitats created in the environmental area create refuge for toads, slow worms, wood mice and huge populations of newts. Children use this area to explore these and many other animals and a highlight for all classes is a session pond dipping around of purpose built raised pond. We are also lucky enough to enjoy large resident groups of very rare solitary mining bees and teach the children how to protect and look after these special insects.
One essential part of learning about the environment is also learning to be safe and we teaching children about this alongside other learning. Often this is about understanding the risks, such as why hygiene is so important when pond dipping. We also discuss with children the real dangers such as poisonous berries or plants, such as foxgloves, and fungi so that they learn to co-exist; allow that living thing to survive and thrive but enjoy from a distance.
As the seasons change there is always something different to notice and this is built into the curriculum. The strong experiences children get through exploring the outdoors or going on Autumn walks helps their learning of seasonality. We encourage children to also get involved in planting and gardening. Class 1 planted up tubs of vegetables and fruit to enjoy throughout the summer and Class 4 helped plant up some raised beds with insect-friendly plants to encourage bees.
We were able to offer a forest school experience for our Year R children in the summer of 2019. This was highly successful. We walked the children to a local woodland area where the landowner kindly gave us permission to use. The children loved exploring the paths and creating stories out in the outdoors.
We also link visits, such as the Class 2 and 3 trip to Hillier Gardens and the Class 1 trip to a local farm, to experiences they have in school.