Outdoor Learning at Meadlands
‘Fresh air for all’ is a key theme of our current School Development Plan for a number of reasons, not least because we are the custodians of the most beautiful and expansive grounds.
1. We believe it is our social and moral responsibility to care for our environment and to pass on these skills of nurture and maintenance to our children.
2. We believe we have a local and global responsibility to educate our young people about the importance of the natural world to human existence e.g medicine and food.
3. We believe it is essential to educate our children about the current threat to Earth’s natural resources e.g de-forestation.
4. We believe that it is essential for children to understand how the food they eat is produced in order that they can live a healthy, active life.
5. We believe that children learn best through play and first-hand experience and that fresh air has a positive impact on both learning and wellbeing.
Head Gardener and Groundsman
Roger Howard was a parent at Meadlands more than twenty years ago and had a vision for the vastly underused outdoor space here. With an illustrious career in all things plants, culminating in many years at the Royal Botanic Gardens – Kew; Roger was the perfect person to design and create our wonderful outdoor learning environment. Modelled on indigenous British woodland and boasting some rare species of trees. Over the last two decades Roger has worked tirelessly for Meadlands on a voluntary basis; nurturing and planting trees, coppicing woodland and coming up with new and exciting ways to use the natural world to help educate the children. Roger’s passion has inspired countless children and staff over the years and he is a real asset to our school.
Our Outdoor Curriculum and Forest School
We are very fortunate to have Karina Kristensen on our staff team who is a trained Forest Schools Practitioner. Forest School is an exciting and innovative approach to outdoor learning. Children participate in a range of achievable activities, which allow them to explore, and to learn to appreciate the outdoor environment. The activities encourage children to develop confidence, independence skills, self-esteem and awareness and knowledge of the natural environment. Children are supported to take risks within boundaries and initiate learning themselves. The children will learn to abide by the rules and sets of behaviour, work cooperatively in groups and respect each other.
For many years now ‘School Grounds Day’ has been a highlight of the school calendar at Meadlands. Now happening once a term, SGD is a special enrichment day where all the children are off timetable to have lessons outside or with an environmental focus, and to care for and maintain our grounds. With a strong link to the seasons, we kick off the day with a special assembly about what is happening outside at that time of year (Autumn – hibernation, less light, growth slows down). Following the assembly, the children go back to classes and enjoy a mixture of activities throughout the day such as making leaf piles for hedgehogs, observing different habitats or planting bulbs. We like every child in the school to plant something each SGD. The day ends with a fun, outdoor-focused Golden Time, in Autumn this could be a game of conkers, in Summer a water-fight! School Grounds Day is about immersing ourselves in the outdoors, learning from, looking after and enjoying our grounds.
However, here at Meadlands, we don’t rest on our laurels and we are passionate about weaving even more outdoor learning through our creative curriculum and topic work. We’ve set all the teachers the challenge of leading at least one lesson outside each week from September 2015. This could be observational drawing in Art, plant classification in Science or even performance poetry in the Story-telling Circle – details to follow soon!
Our Grounds and Habitats
• Large sports field
• Multi Use Games Area (MUGA)
• Large, paved playground
• Library Garden
• Quiet Garden
• Outdoor Classroom with electrical access
• Willow dens
• Story-telling throne and circle
• Bug Hotels
• Wooded Wildlife area with stag beetles, badgers and foxes
• Market Garden with 8 raised beds
• Chicken coop with four feathered friends
We were delighted to host two ‘Market Garden’ Workshops this Spring in association with Marble Hill Park and the Environment Trust. Find out more here http://www.richmond.gov.uk/sgg20_final.pdf
At May Half Term we welcomed four chickens to our family. Elizabeth, Anne, Charlotte and Emily have settled in beautifully and are being ably cared for by our school community. Better still, they are kind enough to lay at least three eggs a day! We had a special ‘Chicken Crazy Week’ to celebrate their arrival, where the children enjoyed drawing, painting, sculpting and writing about our feathered friends.
• Funding secured to build a stilted, treehouse, nature hide with natural canopy from four mature Carpinus trees* this is due to be constructed in August 2015
• Large polytunnel for year-round planting and outdoor lessons
• Renewed paving to improve accessibility
*Many thanks to Mr Zac Goldsmith MP who has been a huge support to our work in this area over the years, most recently donating the Carpinus for our treehouse.