Eastrop Infants and Southfields Juniors in Highworth
Every Friday afternoon term time 6 year twos and 6 year sixes come to Forest School in Cuckoo Pen plantation on the National Trust estate at Coleshill. The year twos spend their golden time learning about the seasons. The year sixes develop their self-esteem through learning to use tools and making fires as well as supporting the year twos with activities such as making tree spirits, playing hiding games and storytelling. Accompanying support staff from both schools have enjoyed seeing the children shine outdoors. The confidence gained and skills learned have been evident in the classroom where the children’s communication and creativity skills have clearly progressed.
A teacher and two support staff from the schools and some local volunteers have completed their level 1 Introduction to Forest School awards enabling them to more effectively provide support and aid the transfer of learning. All staff from both schools have attended taster training sessions in the woods so they have a clear understanding of Forest School.
The importance of an inspirational woodland setting for learning has also been carried into both schools through school grounds developments which include orchards of local fruit trees, native hedgerows, a woodland and willow domes. Woodland Learning has helped with the development of these.
At Southfield School pupils are involved with growing herbs and vegetables on 4 allotments. In 2015 a greenhouse was built from recycled bottles. In the “Bottle House” the children grow vegetables from seed and grow some winter crops. Southfield Families are members of the Allotment Club where they come along for an hour a week and learn about growing vegetables, help with vegetable growing and harvesting and share the produce. In 2016 Southfields are the proud winners of the Swindon Allotment and Leisure Gardens Association School Grounds competition.
At Eastrop School the school grounds continue to develop into a special place for outdoor learning. As well as the orchard, hedgerows and willow dome made some years ago there is a new living willow caterpillar for the children to crawl through and play in, a new raised bed in early years and new beds cleared out ready for gardening club to start growing in beside the playground. The most recent developments were completed with the help of the PTA and volunteers from Nationwide. Future plans include a fire circle, wildflower meadows and a digging area.
Nicola Anderton Head Teacher of Southfields School says:
“It is a dream come true to have all the children in school involved in growing fruit and vegetables, harvesting and eating them. They particularly enjoy making apple crumbles!”
"The Staff day was superb, to be outside team building with each other and with other schools was pure joy and entertainment! Learning new cooking techniques – jackets in a tin with grass, was very interesting. A worthwhile day.”
“I would never have believed the difference in the children if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The difference in self esteem and confidence has been superb.”
Teachers from Eastrop say:
“The children love to explore their natural surroundings. They have the opportunity to be creative and problem solve by making dens, model making and playing imaginatively. The children enjoy building fires, making hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows in a safe environment. They learn to respect and use the fire safely.
It allows the children to demonstrate their strengths in a different environment and they learn to team build and respect each other.”