Awe and Wonder in Outdoor Learning – follow up

Following the launch of our new outdoor learning programme the children prepared a report on the day which you can find by clicking the link below.

New Experiences – Our Day Learning Outdoors

This was how their teacher summed up the experience.

‘Our outdoor learning day provided the opportunity to watch children thrive in a new and provoking learning environment. An environment where children had a say, children had a choice and children asked the questions! All children were supported to try something new and share their experience in their own way. Carefully tailored challenges and activities incited all children to move beyond their comfort zone and supported them to take steps, at their own pace, towards developing confidence and communication. Particular skills such as, perseverance when faced with a problem, confidence when trying something for the first time and valuing the ideas of others, are continuing to support all areas of our learning in class.’

Emma Corrigan – Year 4 Teacher –  Maplecross Primary School

Awe and Wonder with Outdoor Learning

The 12th October saw our first school day at Moggerhanger Park, near Bedford. It was a day full of ‘wow’ moments as children from Maplecross School in Hertfordshire explored learning linked to ‘enquiry and voice’ – visit their blog here.

Despite all the planning so much learning took place in moments we had not even considered. For example those new experinces of

  • feeling a spider run across your hand
  • stepping into a wooded area and for the first time being totally surrounded by trees
  • discovering an insect you had never seen before hiding in a log.

One girl told us she had always been afraid of the woods, but now she thorugh they were “really fun”.

New experinces in learning can simply be created by recongising the value of learning in different contexts, as children grow in their awareness of how to be a learner in the range of spaces that form part of their everyday lives.

This day was full of ‘awe and wonder’ for the children and for us as we were reminded of the power of the outdoors as a tool for learning.

We are really looking forward to seeing how the children make connections between their learning in the woods and their learning back at school. More to follow….

 

We Must Invest in Lifelong Learning!

This week I was introduced to the Did you Know series of videos. Below is the original. It offers an important challenge to why we learn and what we are learning for. It highlights the speed of change within the world at the moment and the importance for educators (whether they be in the home, school or other settings) to recognise just what it is that we are supporting children to be part of (now and in the future).

 

What is clear is the need to focus on on an approach that equips the child for a life of learning.  As we invest in giving children the knowledge, skills and strategies to navigate and confidently master the changing world around them!

 

 

New Outdoor Learning Opportunities

EquippingKids are delighted to have a new Outdoor Learning Lead.

 

Henry Frankel (my brother) brings years of experience as a teacher with forest school accreditation, and a real passion for the outdoors to our developing ambitions to make the most of different learning spaces.

 

As part of our next steps to develop a base for outdoor learning at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire we have planned some test events. If you are in the area – please join us!

 

Are children blank slates?

The new school year has started.  Tied up in the midst of all that is happening  are those staff training days.

 

This new academic year I was inviting staff to think about their ‘attitude’ towards the child. What image or view of the child did they have?

 

It is a really important question. How we think about children matters. Indeed the view we hold of the child will shape the opportunities we create for them and the nature of the practices we create. In turn that will define their experience of being at school!

 

So how do we think about the children in our schools?

 

Assumptions about children are everywhere. With adult assumptions (a view of the child that we believe to be right without having explored that with children themselves) framing so much of how we come to do school?

 

It is therefore important to stop and think about how we view the child or indeed how we might view the child in order to support them in making the most of their learning.

 

One frequent view that staff had of children was as ‘blank slates’.

 

Philosopher John Locke back in the 1770’s introduced the idea of the child as a blank slate. The adult’s educational role was to fill that slate in in the most appropriate way. What was entered on to the slate would thus define the adult that that child would become.

 

However, Locke’s view of the child was rather one dimensional. It is that way of thinking that can be dangerous in our approach to education today. If children are shaped by adult input alone it is very easy for education to be seen to be about children being ‘taught to be’, with a focus on the universal child and their ability to perform in adult generated tests.

 

Are children blank slates? Or when they arrive in that classroom do those slates already have something on them, indeed aren’t all those slates themselves of different shapes and sizes? What children bring with them to school and what they carry around at school might both aid and hinder their learning, but it is important to be fully aware that it (that baggage) is there.

 

Children are not blank slates. They not only carry experiences and knowledge but they are also actively involved in interpreting the learning opportunities they have at school. Staff in schools are therefore there to help facilitate those experiences and to allow children to make the most of them, as together adult and child contribute to the person that they are and will become.

 

Our attitude towards the child in school should therefore encourage children to ‘learn to be’ – as we focus on the individual child and the processes linked to developing the skills of a lifelong leaner.

Children have something to say about school too!

Policy making in schools (and other settings too) can never be fully effective unless children are included in the conversations.

 

In preparation for the new school year we are looking to develop a team of children who can comment on educational policy adding a much needed voice to the continuing discussions about schools.

 

EquippingKids approach is based on the need to engage with the individual child. That means that we have to talk to children for only then can we start to look beyond so many of the assumptions that pervade the way we do ‘school’. It is an overwhelming reality that the practices in the majority of schools are based on adults doing what they think is best. This is not to be rejected, but surely it has to be mixed with what children think as well.

 

In July the results for the national SATs testing in primary schools were released. On the one hand SATs are lauded for their effectiveness in raising standards for children and on the other hand for the stress and strain they place on children’s school experience. In a very simple but telling review I looked at 15 newspaper articles published in the same week as the SATs results (3rd-10th July) – based on a search on their news websites of ‘SATs Results’. These articles were from 4 UK news papers, – The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Mirror.

 

Out of 15 articles only 1 included children’s voices.

 

The one article that did refer to what children had to say was written by a parent. This parent told of how her child’s words influenced how she thought and then acted. Her response to her child’s education was, therefore shaped by what her child had to say!

 

This was in stark contrast to other articles that offered  adult opinions and views that were not directly linked to the voice of children. Articles related how the tests were ‘controversial with parents, teachers and school leaders’ but what about children? One head teacher decided to boycott the tests after consultation with ‘parents and governors’ but what about the children? These adults concerns are recognised by the government. In one article Nick Gibb, minister for School Standards, highlighted how he was keen to move beyond such concerns by encouraging conversation. Through a consultation, which closed in June with findings to be shared in September, he pointed out that their aim was ‘to establish a stable, trusted assessment system that supports children to fulfil their potential’. But notably this consultation did not invite children’s input. If we truly want children to fulfil their potential then don’t we need to engage with children too.

 

Such consultations, like the comment in these news articles,  whether for or against SATs, will remain hollow and limited without input from those who are most directly affected.

 

Including children’s voices will only add to our understanding of their experience and therefore our ability as adults to shape the right policies and practices. We look forward to welcoming children’s thoughts on these issues and any others that they see as being relevant to their experience of school.

 

The new school year will also see us sharing findings on research with just under 1000 children on their experience of school as well as analysis of a joint project with schools in Canada on belonging.

Hydroponics – a project in need of collaboration

An exciting visit yesterday to Moggerhanger Park in Bedford. From September we are going to be running experience days for primary schools that will allow the children to engage with some of the amazing opportunities that Moggerhanger has to offer, from the rich history and connections with William Wilberforce, to the beauty of the land and woods to the amazing work that is being developed as part of a hydroponics/ aquaponics projects based at the Moggerhanger Park Farm.

In just one ‘greenhouse’ a very small but impressively dedicated team are demonstrating how a hydroponics project can be set up (and work!) with very limited investment. From an educational perceptive the journey that the team have taken offers so much potential, from understanding plant growth, to making the most of accessible resources, through to using and sharing skills to turn an idea into reality.

We hope that through our work with schools, children can ‘collaborate’ and be part of generating ideas that furthers this kind of sustainable environmental ‘technology’ in a practical and relevant way. As well as supporting through focused activities the efforts of the team at Moggerhanger.