A woodland classroom offering school children the chance to learn about wildlife first-hand has opened at a school in Arnold.
Children at Burntstump Seely Church of England Academy have been enjoying the great outdoors, exploring their new space over recent days.
The school, located at the summit of Burntstump Hill already benefits from an idyllic rural setting, but until now, hasn’t been able to access the secure woodland at the rear of the school property.
“It’s a really amazing space for children,” said head teacher, Heather Gabb.
“When families are touring the school, they are so surprised at the land we have available for children to enjoy. Now we have opened up the new field and woodland we have even more magical areas for children to enjoy their outdoor learning.”
Ellis Atkinson is the school’s Early Years teacher and she says the area has opened up new possibilities for children.
She said: “It was during lockdown that we began turning the field and woodland into an outdoor classroom for structured sessions and child-led play. Our site manager used old logs recycled from playground equipment to make a story circle and everything else is handmade from natural materials or upcycled items.”
A favourite with the children; the environmental area now has a mud kitchen, wind spinners made by children, pinecone animals, old tyres to balance on and bird feeders made from recycled milk cartons.
Ellis says she believes that anything that can be taught in a classroom can be taught outside, often with more memorable results for children and their learning. “For example, when we did a maths session on measuring, rather than laminating pictures to compare and order in the classroom, the outdoors provided a more meaningful experience as we used rocks, sticks and leaves to talk about size. It also provides the perfect space to study wildlife and habitat, environmental issues and plant and tree recognition. We even have pheasants on the field and children love listening out for them and asking questions about them.” The area has also provided a space in which children can explore safety lessons when visiting woodland or rural areas.
“We have a newly grassed field area which in future we will use for games and sports activities. The early years class plan to have a teddy bears picnic on there too!” said Ellis.
Lilith, age 5, says it’s the mini beasts that are on her radar. “I like looking for bugs! I really like caterpillars because they change into butterflies. Also, we can run around outside, and we can be free in nature! It is so fun outside!”
Fellow pupils have big plans for the mud kitchen. Michael and Charandeep (both age 4) say the best activity is making mud pies, and Peter (age 5) agreed saying, “I like writing recipes in the woods. I wrote a recipe to make a mud milk shake for the mud kitchen and everyone followed the instructions to make it.”
Children also have their own plans for further developing the new space. Charandeep (age 4) said digging and planting seeds would be good and Peter (age 5) said he would like to do some composting. But for Nevaeh (age 5), it’s all about the wildlife. “I would like to learn more about hedgehogs and squirrels and all the animals that live in the woods!”
Teacher Ellis said that no matter what the weather, the school will make the most of their new woodland classroom.
She said: “We plan to continue making it a truly magical space for children, and one in which they are excited to learn.”