Written by Deborah Lambert, Michelle Roberts and Sue Waite this series of books has been ordered on my account for many months and with great excitement it arrived yesterday. So I thought the best way to get to know the series was to do a review.
The series is related to the English National Curriculum but like any good teacher you can easily relate the activities and progressions to the Scotland or Wales Curriculum.
The books are separated out into the different year groups and key stages. Key Stage 1 book (EY, Year 1 & 2), then books for separate year groups 3,4,5 & 6. It was these latter years that I was particularly interested in to see how the approach was presented. So many books have been written about the early part of schools on the use of the Outdoors and Forest school and then this seems to transmit to the percentage of learning taking place further up the school. There is no reason why that Outdoor Learning has to stop when the children reach Key Stage 2. Yes in Wales there are directives to early years to go Outdoors but the benefits are now widely known – I digress!
The first chapters of the books are the same in their content. Chapter 1 is about the benefits and challenges of teaching outdoors and how to embed Outdoor Learning into your practice. Also the methods to use the book itself. Chapter 2 talks about assessment in the outdoors, using adults, supporting special educational needs and how to gather evidence which is a really useful and pertinent point that many people bring up on training courses. Chapter 3 is Health and safety which can be a barrier to learning for some staff, it outlines the law and risk benefits whilst accepting the challenge and staying safe. In this chapter there are items on fire lighting and using tools which is listed in the contents of the books yr 3,4,5 & 6 but not in the first book but they is included in the chapter.
The rest of the book is separated out into 6 progressions in separate subjects; English, Maths, Science, Geography, History, Art & Design, Music and Religious Education.
My first instinct like for any book since a child has been to flick through the book looking for pictures. The books have a smattering of pictures which go with the books and reference the explanation. At first I was disappointed then elated when I found that you are given a link to the Bloomsbury website which gives you more photo’s and diagrams to further illustrate the text.
However each subject is spilt into sections making it easy to find what you are looking for and the same process is repeated with every subject so when making a comparison it flows nicely.
At the start of every subject there is a explanation on how the 6 progressions are going to fit into the curriculum area and what the theme throughout the progressions is going to be eg ‘Year 6 Maths – objectives from year 5 are reinforced whilst using language linked to geometry.’ They do this by exploring the properties of angles and shapes in the outdoor area using problem solving skills which promotes oral and collaborative learning. Naturally within these activities there are links to estimating, measuring and calculation. The magic of Outdoor Learning is that the activities are perfect opportunities for assessment as within many activities holistic understanding can be easier for some.
There are many other links to other subject areas highlighted as well as a word bank and a summary overview of the 6 lessons.
Within each progression activity the pages are split into sections around; preparation, objectives, warm up ideas main activity description and plenary and evaluation sessions.
I think the language used in the key stage 2 books is enough to convince even the hardened ‘indoor’ teacher that the outdoors has much to offer and these books give a step by step introduction of how it can be incorporated into their scheme of work along with their other planning.
Overall I have been really impressed with this series and look forward to getting to look at in depth. Look forward to introducing this series with my resources for Outdoor Learning trading courses as a great example.