We learn about Forest School and ‘empty classroom days’ from Longacre School’s Headteacher, Matthew Bryan‘
When I think back to my own school days, I was delighted whenever a teacher took a class outside, though sadly the overriding memory is of presuming that lessons al fresco were not going to involve any kind of serious work or application. That kind of thing happened in classrooms, so I presumed.
The school playing field might be ideal for football, handstands and relaxing, but it is also perfect for academic pursuits, be that composing poems about spring as the bluebells and blossom emerge, or breaking twigs to see fractions literally, or bringing science to life in the pursuit of minibeasts. The outdoors makes the most wonderful canvas for art and a child will never forget a historical battle if they take part in a re-enactment (especially if it includes some dressing up!).
All pupils at Longacre engage in Outdoor Learning, with the older children moving from Forest School activities to Teamwork and Leadership tasks with a real focus on achieving as a group, rather than as an individual. These innovations at Longacre are integral to achieving outstanding results and record value-added data.
To ensure that outdoor learning becomes systemic and normal, we give over whole days to individual year groups as ‘empty classroom days’. Come rain or shine, pupils spend the whole school day – save loo trips! – outside, following their normal curriculum and ensuring that lunch includes toasted marshmallows. Teachers at Longacre look forward to teaching everything in the wild, with particular kudos to the ICT teacher!
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