East Campus Infant School Outdoor Learning Programme
By Rachel Rhodes, Head of K1, UWCSEA East
5 December 2022
The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky
– Margaret McMillan
Learning for 4 to 6 year olds at UWCSEA is shaped by a holistic, inquiry-based approach spanning all the five elements of the learning programme: academics, activities, outdoor education, service and personal and social education. It is shaped by teachers in response to the interests of students, each classroom and grade-level pod has centres for art, discovery, construction, mathematical exploration, reading, writing and dramatic play.
An example of this approach in action is the Outdoor Learning curriculum for Infant School (IS) students. On East Campus, our team of Outdoor Education specialist teachers have built an IS programme focussed on the conceptual understanding that individuals can use their senses mindfully to experience and form connections to outdoor environments. We provide regular explorations in our on-campus green spaces, giving opportunities for students to be immersed in nature with the aim to help them get creative and comfortable in the outdoors.
Acquiring knowledge about the important roles of our gardens and what they can offer adds to the students' growing knowledge of sustainability, fosters confidence, risk-taking behaviours and an appreciation for the natural world around us.
The development of an exciting outdoor learning space in our campus Rain Garden is well underway! This will include a wild pond area to attract wildlife such as tadpoles and frogs, natural areas for children to explore and climb, mud kitchen area to develop creativity and encourage problem solving, as well as outdoor classroom spaces for carrying out wildlife surveys and observations.
Our infant activity ‘Nature Explorers’ spent time in this new space recently to share their student voice about how they would like to use the area and what could be added to it - what a fabulous range of innovative ideas from our G1 and K2 students that we will look to incorporate. Being asked at the end of the session by several students ‘can we come back here every week?’ demonstrates the need and desire for prolonged regular outdoor learning sessions. It supports connection with the natural environment, through activities such as identifying wildlife, planting and caring for gardens and creative use of a wide range of natural resources.
Keep an eye out for more exciting developments in our on-campus outdoor learning spaces as well as some new trips to local nature spaces to tie in with upcoming infant units on animal habitats and caring for our outdoor environments.
We could never have loved the world so well if we had no childhood in it – George Eliot