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THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM OUTDOORS – GENERAL REVIEW

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.

“Well-bad” ladies.

John Muir Award at Cwmffrwdoer

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During the earlier part of 2019 Cwmffrwdoer Primary School in Torfaen started the John Muir Award as part of an Outdoor Mindfulness project with Outdoor Coaching UK.

A week prior to the course starting the class of year 3 pupils were given a carved wooden box which they were allow to handle but not open. This fired their curiosity, feeling the texture, weight, listening to the sounds of the contents and looking at the colour and carvings. The box was opened on the first of the six sessions revealing a shell from a beach with a special meaning, a Plain Tree seed pod, a set of Tibetan Bells and a set of questions which was the first thing out of the box.

The class had already been using Mindfulness as part of their routines and were keen to show how they came to the present, which is a key skill of practicing Mindfulness. This focus was then taken outside to further and enhance their practice in a scavenger hunt activity.

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Scavenger Hunt

This focus was then taken to the corner of the school grounds that they used for their Outdoor Learning. Using their improved focus skills they found a special place which they used as their ‘sit spot’. Once comfortable they came to the present and using all their senses they looked at the colours, shapes, sounds and feelings of the nature around them. This experience provided the inspiration for further literacy poems and became the start of making a wooden sign which they placed at their sit spot. The decorated sign indicated their special place giving them an anchor for their memories and feelings, along with providing a stimulating inspirational sign for other visitors to the site. It gave rise to information that was used to look at feelings surrounding well-being in other areas of their life. These were put into the idea tin and discussed at a later date.

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As a part of the Mindfulness course they had the opportunity to experience the Outdoor Coaching First Nation Cree Tipi. Nature Connections were discussed and the way in which these indigenous peoples spiritual connections helped them with Mindfulness and their huge connection to Nature in the places they lived.

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The pupils shared their work and their sit spots with their parents who were invited in to celebrate the end of the project. The area was decorated with some Tibetan prayer flags which were donated by Outdoor Coaching. All the parents particularly enjoyed the sharing of the mindful moments with their siblings and cooked together a marshmallow over the fire.

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The fire was then used to share their poems on the fire and send them as smoke up to people who were no longer with them, as the First Nation did to their spirits on the arms of the Tipi poles.

All pupils really enjoyed the project and are looking forward to collecting their John Muir Award certificates and further Outdoor connections with their sit spots.

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Maths and Maps

The National Navigation Award scheme has a set of junior awards especially designed for the younger navigators. These are particularly suitable for junior schools and they cover many aspects of the numeracy curriculum. It is a great way to teach using a different and creative method which engages those, that for the classroom is not an environment that appeals to their learning style.

This lesson was for year 3 pupils but can be adapted and differentiated for other ages. Using the classroom area we made a map of the desks on their whiteboards to understand how to orientate the map to the surroundings.

Each pupil then used their water bottle, which had their name on and placed it around the room as a control. They then marked the position of the water bottle on their map, which they then in turn stopped their maps to find their partners bottle. Much excitement then ensued as they set out on their journey of discovery searching for the bottles.

The next step was to draw six circles on their white board. This was towards helping with understanding of scale and positioning. This represented six cones of two different colours. They labelled the cones according to the colours of their cones. Then picking one of the cones on their map they circled the cone using a Triangle, the international Orienteering symbol for the ‘Start’. The class got quite excited they were using Olympic language in their symbols.

Each pupil had to orientate the map and go to that cone which was part of the pattern in front of them. The next step was to draw a line from this cone to another representative of a journey leg. They then had to make this journey, after which another 2 legs were added. At each step they had to orientate the map using the cones as reference. Once they had completed their journey they exchanged their map with partner in their group so they could follow their map. After this they swopped with another group using a different set of cones. The next stage was to place the cones in the same pattern but further apart, so each leg was a greater distance.

There was much excitement and running around following each other’s maps, this was a great way to introduce physical literacy and practicing following routes in a way which was a fun method of learning.

With a few more little activities added to their navigation understanding gave the class the opportunity to complete the Bronze National Navigator Award and have a certificate given them in assembly. What a great way to reward a maths lesson.

Taking this activity to the next levels add more cones to the pattern and use set maps for the competitors to follow.

To add another twist and to bring numeracy into the navigation put a number under each cone. At each cone on the route add the numbers together for a mental maths problem.

Well Being Stones

As part of a continuing Welsh Arts Council Creative Schools Project a year 3 group are improving an area within the centre of the buildings. This is a central section which can be accessed by many of the classrooms and the family room. It has many secluded sections and seating areas to be used for thinking and thought collection.

In this area large beach stones are used to decorate post bases. As part of an activity on looking at ourselves and things that make us calm and smile each person with a partner picked a stone – blindfolded.

By using a blindfold each person could choose a stone by smell, weight, texture and what it said to them when they touched it. All stones were very similar but each one picked was special to them.

Once picked they had to explain the reason why they choose that particular stone to their partner. Once all the stones were collected they were studied individually and then left over break time to dry. Once returning each stone was reunited with its person. It was decorated by painting a picture or word associated with their thoughts earlier on what made them happy and smile. Once all the stones were finished with their thoughts and pictures in paint had dried they were placed out in the courtyard area as a symbol of their happiness area. The words are visible to others to help inspire them towards their own thoughts of tranquility. Some are hidden beneath the gravel to be personal to themselves. All are placed on the ground to connect with Mother Earth so she may spread their word to others and hold it for them. This concept was discussed as an earlier activity in the Tipi relating around First Nation spiritual beliefs.

The project continues with the addition of a Totem Pole and Small Tipi for story telling and chill out area. A great legacy for the rest of the school of a creative approach to wellbeing and working on increasing individual confidence in many areas of some disengaged boys in the class.

Pavlov in the Outdoors

When Mountain Rescue dogs are trained they are conditioned to respond to work mode by their florescent coat being put on. This indicates stop playing, change to a work mode and search for a casualty.

Wandering around Twitter viewing all the great work that is being done in the outdoors I happened to find a group of young children being introduced to the Outdoors by the wonderful ‘Forest Schools’ programme.  I agree with the philosophy of the whole programme and the ethos of what it is trying to do – get more young people into the Outdoors and re-engage them with the Natural world and the scientifically proven benefits of the healthy outdoors whilst at the same time learning. However, you cannot transpose Finland onto Britain. You can research their best practice and apply through interpretation those advantages and apply it to our circumstances and culture, for the benefit of our children.

Freedom to mould education and a culture that is looking forward is fundamentally what we are still struggling with, trying to get away from our Victorian roots, something that the Scandinavians however, have grasped. We have replaced  ‘teaching’ children, we are now ‘administering’ them, placing them in boxes, positions on graphs and tables concluding that this will place them in the best possible position to launch themselves into the wide world! This seems to be the foundation of our evolution into launching ourselves into the Outdoors.

‘Cotton Wool kids’ was a headline a few years ago about children being wrapped up due to undue health and safety restrictions. This restricts the full development of individuals and this has handcuffed teaching staff who do not know which to turn without filling in forms and permission slips before allowing their class to dip their toes in the Outdoors.

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As we move our children along a journey in the Outdoors we must go carefully and not sculpt that young person so it looks like the person in the rule book. When are we going to be brave enough and discard the “Keep off the Grass” signs and allow free movement in the Outdoors?  To use the full experiential learning model that Nature and the Outdoors has to offer which will fill in all those gaps that are missing in education at present that produces the whole child and not just a colour segment on a pye-chart.

Coach our children, offer them opportunities to explore and the learning ‘will’ take place, we are naturally inquisitive as a human being. We can make this happen, but not if we are governed by timetabled targets, or driven by systems that are inappropriate but if we transpose the Outdoors onto our curriculum, ‘Our Curriculum for Life.

By placing a high viz vest on your child to go explore the vast Outdoor environment which is your forest school area, is dictating that learning in the Outdoors only happens when you are fluorescent yellow.  A Pavlovian approach to Outdoor Learning.

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UN NATURE TRAIL

As part of a days Outdoor Learning Festival in a primary school an activity used was an ‘Un-nature Trail’. Along a hedge, but have done it along a pathway before, I had placed items that were all ‘man made’ or all un natural. Some were at eye height, some were high, some were at ground level all designed to make the participant use their observation skills. However, because we as humans have so much information being received at any one time we filter out the vast majority. This means that if we don’t focus then things get missed! What colour top was that person wearing that you just passed? If it wasn’t really bright or stood out in some way you filtered it out. No need to put it at the front of your mind. So small everyday items can be filtered out on this activity. 
It can be run in different ways and you will think of differentiation all the time. A list of the items can be given and you have to find them. You can tell the class how many there are and they have to list them – they may well find others if you’ve done a walk of the trail before. 

You can develop this into sorting the materials after the trail and this can be planned into items that are selected before the trail starts. 

Rules say that no pointing. Try not to give away the fact that you have seen the item. Do not remove it. 

Here is a list I have used before. Some create discussion. 

Paper clip 

Coat hanger

Wooden clothes peg

Shoe lace

Pencil

Fluffy hedgehog

Ruler

Tent peg 

Cup

Sweet wrapper

Battery

Paper bag 

Fabric

Have one idea for using an app for collecting your score which can be used for any collection of data. Could be counting leaves, a wildlife study, ecological survey, tadpole count, but in this case the criteria is materials. The app,used is ‘ Dartfish Easy Tag. 

You can use existing templates or create your own, change the criteria to fit your survey or score. You can then look at the data and use how you wish. I took a photo at each stage to record and then put into Pic Collage for this this post. Once the data has been saved it can be emailed to an account or you could share the results over a Seesaw class account with the rest of your class and teacher.

Tipi Ceremony – Values

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In the beginning, the idea of the Tipi was the USP (unique selling point) of my new business Outdoor Coaching UK. It is has now developed into a very versatile piece of equipment which enables the introduction of a variety of Outdoor Learning and life skills.

The first outing was to Maesglas Primary School in Newport to use Outdoor Learning as a vehicle to help engage pupils that had poor attendance (70%average) back into school. It was also to look at the values of who and where they were in relation with family and school.


I had been speaking via Facebook to a friend (funny how this new world of social media creates friends who you have never met, but have a relationship with) who teaches in Northern Canada and has become immersed through marriage and occupation as a headteacher into the Cree First Nation people. Bruce was able to…

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Outdoor Mental Health 

‘Just going outside for a breathe of fresh air’, ‘ go outside and play, it will do you good instead of being inside all day!’.

A few phrases that I had heard from an early age and now have a more profound ring to them. As our screenagers get engrossed into their own virtual world,  they are cleverly marketed into the supposition that they are engaged socially into a green and healthy world because the online game is set Outdoors.

A single hour outside during the day would aid their whole life health plan. A few litres of air blown in by the wind instead of recirculated teenage bedroom aroma, a stride across the garden or woodland track instead of an excited leg twitch of another kill on the screen could put years on their healthy calendar.

What’s the alternative? Statistics that are quite shocking today that apply to our young people. High security prisoners now get more daily outdoor time than our average young person. Wales has the highest obesity rates in young people than anywhere in Europe, you can’t blame that one on European legislation!

What is available is Free! Wales has a double Free prescription but only tablets are the drug of choice from our doctors surgery. It should be that our Health Service is linked  to our amazing Welsh Outdoor environment. A walk in a green area, a city park counts, will bring down your blood pressure, reduce stress levels and aid recovery from health problems.


So, when feeling down, recovering from illness or surgery get Outdoors, scientifically it is proven that the Great Outdoors is indeed ‘Great’ at making you feel better. But then we already knew this, as when we came back indoors from being Outside we were always told to ‘calm down’ as we had too much energy! How do you feel after that walk?  – ‘recharged’. Just listen to the language of the Outdoors in relation to Health in general it says it all!

More young people can recognise a Dalek and not an oak tree. Time to change our learning and approach to helping ourselves with our health plan and improve our life NOW , rather than in the future saying ‘I wish I’d have got out more!’.

Have a bit of ‘eco therapy’ in your daily dose of medicines and tonics.

Operation Natural Well-being. 

The day of operation ‘Nature’s well-being’ had finally arrived. I had been walking through my outdoor journey for the last few months now as my hip replacement  operation had been cancelled several times. I had been on the walk in daylight, dawn, dusk, night-time, sun, wind and rain. Frosty underfoot and very soggy lately. Taking in all the detail of the path, it’s ups and downs the angle of where the trees cross above. The colours, the textures the feelings of the moss and leaf-litter. All this was my master plan in readiness for my thoughts going into the anaesthetic to use Nature to become calm and for a feeling of well-being and a positivity in my mental health. Also using it with the  recuperation afterwards when I am home and for a short while unable to walk the route. 
There is a spiritual side to my thoughts in walking in Nature but there is now scientific medical evidence that green space and fresh air aids recovery. Even the view from your bed window can have an affect on the time of recovery and most importantly the frame of your mind. This was one the incentives in my natural master plan. 

With all this in mind and with the thoughts initially that the wards all face the wonderful vista of the Blorenge and green mountains I entered  the ward on the morning of admission. However, as all plans there may need for some iteration along the journey. Certainly this was the case when they lead me to a side ward of my own with a magnificent view to aid health and well- being.

The ward opposite my room had a magnificent green view. 

My room had a different twist to the meaning of  ‘green’ ! Which meant my plan to become a success had to be a truely walk completely in the mind. 

Another iteration came when a few problems with introducing the anaesthetic meant I did not even open the gate to the woods to start my walk for the journey into the operation.

 Oh well, not to worry. Post operative positivity was in full force, which I am sure came from the influence of the saturation into Nature therapy for months prior to my NHS therapy. 


Within days I was home and using my green journey as part of my recuperation plan. Daily in my exercise routine I finished with a meditative walk along my route through the woods. 

Within a two weeks I ventured onto the walk alongside the stream but not into the wood as my crutches sank too much into the mud. 

Once I had the ability to access fully to the green gym – which is free by the way! the recovery sped up daily. My incentive to walk further in my normal journey motivated my efforts. 

 By week seven I had been to the top of Pen Y Fan much to the surprise of my physio. 


My time in preparation in using Nature to aid my recovery from my hip operation has been in my mind  been essential. The use of Nature and its natural medicine has in my case been a complete success. I can only compare with two years previous when I had my first hip replacement and recovery was so slow in comparison without Natures remedies. 

I am a firm believer in the use of Nature to help with all aspects of health. Taking off the top of the bottle with the label ‘Nature’ is the best move you can make if you have a medicinal need. It’s a tonic that should be taken daily. 

Natures Plug-In

An amazing quick visit to Stackpole Quay last night. The evening was perfect, the tide was in the full moon rising from the horizon. I had the place to myself and the sounds of sea a perfect opportunity to do some reflection. The power of Nature to recharge your soul and spirit never fails to amaze me. These moments are like a natural plug-in for your mental health and well-being. 


We may not realise it at the time as the tonic is taken in so many different methods. The vista is an eye lotion that writes its own label describing to us the awe and wonder of the moment. The sounds of the swell of the in coming tide against the shoreline, ear drops that soothe the inner soul. The taste of the salty sea breeze is a freshness for vitality in adding to that inhalation of breathe. Your toes in the sand, your palms on the cold exposed rocky shore connecting you directly to nature and grandmother earth. 


So just in ‘that moment’ you are plugged into a power unit that is unmeasurable but charges in way like no other. It’s price per unit – priceless.