After spending the previous day setting up 3 tents with the Cotton Tent Company www.thecottontentcompany.co.uk, they arrive to a scene somewhat trounced by the British Weather, tents flattened, promotional materials soaked, and basically the need to start again, and have things ready in 3 hours. The mantra - “it all adds to the authenticity of the day”, the great British Outdoors!
So after getting things back on track, the delegates start to arrive and after some warming hot drinks the day gets underway in one of the 3 incredible tents. An introduction from the head of the host Junior School, and some scene setting by Andy and Mike, they introduce Kim Somerville, Campaign Co-ordinator for www.learningaway.org.uk. Kim is here to inspire us to “Join the Campaign” for Brilliant Residentials. The campaign is designed to get schools & teachers to pledge to work with others to provide school trips with at least one overnight stay which amongst other things are fully embedded into the curriculum, designed and led by teachers and inclusive and affordable for all students. Kim really inspired the group to think about how this could work and how working together can really deliver something great for children and how these types of residentials can have a hugely impactful positive effect on their learning.
After Kim’s talk, came the first keynote of the day, Andrew Hammond discussing “Teaching for Character”. Andrew has taught in schools for twenty years, as a class teacher, Head of English and Drama, Director of Studies, Deputy Head and Headteacher in both state and independent sectors. He is the author of numerous titles for a range of educational publishers and his recent seven-book series, The Invisible Curriculum published by John Catt Ltd, includes the widely acclaimed Teaching for Character and Teaching for Creativity. Andrew challenged the group to think about the way in which teachers, schools and teaching operate, his Invisible Curriculum model really delves into looking at more than grades and results, but looking at the children as individuals and finding what makes them tick, and he asserts that going “off-road” is one of the best things we can do in education and that includes getting into the outdoors as much as possible. There was much thought provoking, some challenging ideas and a lot of laughs in this session. I heard people coming out buzzing about what he’d had to say and saying how good this session was.
Time for some more refreshments and to take the event out of the tents and to start looking at some practical ways of learning outdoors.
There were 5 workshops available for the delegates to choose from:
Andy Carley, Director of School Outdoor Learning - Curriculum learning outside the classroom
Andy showing how learning outside doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.
I have seen Andy run these sessions before and have always been astounded how simple things, that can often be found lying around a school can be used to such great effect in the outdoors. Andy laid out several objects on a large tarpaulin and asked the group to consider what could be done in a learning capacity with these objects. Lots of great ideas and productivity came forth and the teachers were delighted with the ideas Andy presented to them at such little cost. He provided lesson plans and resources to help the teachers expand outside their comfort zone and redefine their “classroom”, brilliant! And better still it can all be linked to the curriculum.
Mike Hargreaves, Operations Manager School Outdoor Learning - Teaching with TLC (teamwork, leadership & communication)
Mike showing some team building exercises using a simple pole. A great way to stimulate thought and discussion and work together to achieve the goal.
Mike worked with the teams in his workshops to demonstrate simple exercises to focus on resilience, confidence, collaboration and communication. These things are on top of the list of qualities and life skills looked for by universities and employers. There is a growing need to support growth and development of a pupil’s character in an education framework with an increasing focus on standardisation. With so many variables and opportunities in the outdoors, this workshop really brought to life SOuL’s tried and tested approach to using these opportunities to build on children’s characters and diversity. All of these can be done in the teachers’ own schools at minimal expense or set up. Great ideas, I’m inspired!
Hel Laurie - Mindfulness Outside for Children
Hel showing the group how learning outdoors can really benefit the mental health of children.
Hel is an experienced mindful practitioner and her enlightening session showed teachers how to engage pupils using basic mindfulness strategies inspired by nature. The focus is using a range of stimuli found outside the classroom to enable children to become more aware of themselves and thereby expand their ability to make positive choices in their lives. In an age of increasing mental health issues being identified in children, this was the perfect introduction to trying to help restore some balance in their busy lives.
Debs Fletcher - Learning through Bushcraft
(Debs was off in the forest before I could get any photos of this workshop!)
Debs took her workshops off into the forest to explore a variety of skills, ideas and activities for delegates to run with their pupils by just stepping outside of the classroom door. Looking at all of the natural materials that can be gathered during the various seasons, the intention of her ideas to engage young people through doing purposeful nature based activities that have practical, creative and experiential angles. Her passion and knowledge shone through and she left the delegates with fresh and easy ideas for their pupils.
Andrew Hammond - The Model Learner
Andrew inspiring some more thought provocation and discussing Da Vinci.
Andrew’s workshop in the tent invited delegates to consider how they can model the characteristics of effective learning to our students and how they can model the characteristics of effective learning for their students and how to observe, track and report on the ‘hidden curriculum’ in schools. Some great discussions ensued leaving the delegates with plenty to reflect on.
After some great sessions outside, time for some lunch, and if you fancy it, a shot at archery, just for fun! The atmosphere is great, everyone is seeming to truly enjoy being outdoors and learning new skills and ideas.
After the lunchtime fun, back to the classroom tent and the 2nd and final keynote speaker, Mike Abraham discussing “Where is the learning?”. Recently retired after 24 years of Headship, Mike has been Head of a number of schools in the Midlands and in the North of England. In 1991, he launched Yarm Preparatory School, growing the school from 0 to 320 pupils over 10 years. He has been a member of IAPS, is an ISI Team Inspector, has been a school Governor, has led many training days in the north east of England and is a member of the National Junior Heads Steering Committee. He is known for turning around struggling schools and passionate about developing and nurturing the whole child through an experiential and character centric approach.
Mike gives a passionate talk about his experiences at Yarm School and Teesside High Prep and the importance of embedding residential field trips into the curriculum and the impact they have on the learning and development of the pupils. It essentially brings the learning alive.
Back to the outdoors for one last workshop and the energy is still very much there, the outdoors really does inspire enthusiasm and ideas and the workshops are as popular as the morning sessions, everyone keen to learn more about taking the classroom outside.
A quick wrap up and thanks from the SOuL team and that’s it for the day, and what a day it has been. A glorious Autumn day with enthusiastic and motivated teachers getting together to learn new ideas, wellies on, inspiration a plenty, when does CPD get better than this?
SOuL can help you with your outdoor learning projects from simple programmes of ideas to full scale redevelopment of your outdoor teaching and practices. They work with you to decide what is best for your school within any of your constraints and ambitions and deliver a world class solution to fit your demands.