Embracing the Great Outdoors

7 July 2022

This year has been a year like no other for our outdoor provision. Our children have been learning outside more than ever before. It's fair to say we're back with a bang and blossoming. 

As part of our drive to embed and further develop outdoor learning, last September saw the introduction of Mr Caie as Outdoor Education Leader and Wildlife Ranger, a new role for the school. Mr Caie has been focused on unlocking the potential of our extensive outdoor areas, whilst developing the curriculum of outdoor learning across all year groups.  

This new momentum has been clear from the start, with September’s introduction of new Outdoor Learning sessions built into each half term for Years 3-8. Staff have also been given support to teach their curriculum lessons outside the classroom. Some highlights of these new sessions included: a rewilding study with Year 3; forest bathing with Year 4 and Year 5 undertaking the RFS Junior Forester Award. Orienteering challenges with Year 6, and ropework and weather systems with Years 7 and 8.  Our new outdoor provision also supported our STEAM week and World Book Day. There were space themed challenges to build students’ teamwork and problem-solving abilities as part of our World Book Day, and sessions looking at planetary rovers and lunar craters in STEAM week.  

We have also begun the development of our outdoor spaces, with several areas of woodland getting a new lease of life with pathway restoration, seating areas and hedgerows. Other areas are being left to recover organically as part of a wider rewilding effort.  Mr Caie has also constructed a wildlife hide nestled into a forgotten corner of the grounds, in which pupils have been able to get closer to our wildlife and also have an outdoor hub to use in wetter weather. Many other exciting projects are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, in Early Years and Key Stage 1 our Forest School has continued to thrive, with children getting back in the mud and learning through adventures. We have also seen some staff changes with Mrs Lowndes joining the fantastic Forest School team, alongside Miss Godwin and Mrs Hodges. A highlight of this year's Forest School was a series of trips to Half Moon Common in the New Forest, led by Mrs Lowndes. The children loved seeing the wildlife and following their curiosities.  

It has also been great to have Beach School back up and running, providing a fantastic opportunity to engage our children in Key Stage 1. Beach School is a whole lot more than environmental study: it can be designed to link with every aspect of the curriculum – from numeracy to art. Children learn about the natural world around them and develop their practical, emotional and intellectual skills, all taking place at the seaside.  

Alongside offering new opportunities to our children, Mr Caie and Mrs van Zyl have begun developing ways in which our facilities and staff can support our local community. To kick this off, 2022 has seen Stroud working with the brilliant team at Romsey Young Carers to offer outdoor experiences and events, including Easter egg hunts, as part of the charity's support for young carers and their families.  With success and enjoyment already felt by all involved, we are looking forward to developing and expanding this outreach next year.  

As well as supporting the wellbeing of members of our community, this year saw a new initiative of woodland wellbeing, playing an important part of the school's extended pastoral support. Mr Caie, working in partnership with Mrs Brown, created time for children and groups within the school to receive outdoor wellbeing sessions, tailored to the needs and aspirations of those involved. In only a short amount of time, these sessions have proved to be an out and out success, creating a space for decompression, relationship building and for children to simply be themselves.  

As a whole, this year has seen our outdoor spaces come alive with activity. The true potential of our surroundings is being unleashed for the benefit of our children, our community and our natural environment! We are excited to see what the future holds…