At Maple Grove we make the most of our extensive outdoor areas. We don't just learn about the outdoors we provide learning opportunities across the curriculum outdoors.
Research carried out especially linked with the EYFS shows that the outdoor learning environment is a key support to children’s development. The EYFS states:
‘Being outdoors has a positive impact on children's sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children's development.’
‘Being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors’
‘It gives first hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world. Outdoor learning environments offer children freedom to explore, use their senses, and be physically active and exuberant.’
We have built our ideas upon these statements throughout the school with the way we use the outdoors. Making sure that we give the opportunity of being outside.
At Maple Grove we believe in learning through experience and through the outdoor environment. Children learn to respect the outdoors and we insist upon kindness to all living things. Children in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage One follow our Forest Schools programme, run by our Forest School leader, Ms Quintrell. Key Stage Two take part in a year-round outdoor learning programme. These weekly sessions are led by Mrs Crampton. Whilst outdoor learning is timetabled, all classes can access the outdoors for learning opportunities throughout everyday teaching across the curriculum.
The outdoor environment has unique characteristics and features. Being outdoors gives children the opportunity to explore nature and what it has to offer first-hand. We go outside in all weathers so the children can build their experiences on what the natural environment has to offer to them. They see patterns of change through the seasons, and have the space and freedom to naturally satisfy their thirst for investigation.
Combining different sections within our areas, the children can use their senses and imagination to play and learn individually and as part of a group. The outdoor environment offers space and opportunity to move, and develop both fine motor and gross motor skills.
Maintenance is important to keep the outdoor classrooms accessible for everybody all year round. Where possible the children take responsibility for helping eachother to after the areas. We encourage children to foster their independence by using a range of tools responsibly.
At Maple Grove we have four outdoor learning areas, each with different features and resources which have been established to our needs. Our outdoor areas are nature rich classrooms, which can be appreciated by the all of the children to learn within the space and use the freedom it offers.
Foundation stage has an outdoor learning area is used every day throughout the year in their planning time, where the children can access different activities like climbing, sand, digging and a mud kitchen. They can use their toys in the natural environment.
Our Key Stage One outdoor learning area is positioned at the front of the school. Accessible from both Key Stage One classrooms means that it can be used for a range of learning opportunities throughout the year. A shady story circle provides a calming spot to share books stories and circle time activities.
Parts of the KS2 area are allowed to naturally grow, the pathways are kept clear and plant boxes covered and kept free from weeds. A covered outdoor classroom enables us to use the outdoors as part of our everyday teaching. Groups or even whole classes can use the space to engage in all subjects across the curriculum. Our key stage two outdoor learning area near our field has been designed and
developed especially for outdoor learning. Including natural habitats, a pond,
Abundant vegetable patches have been host to carrots, pumpkins, sprouts, rhubarb, runner beans, potatoes and many other vegetables. Flower beds are designed with bees in mind! Pollenating encouraging pollenation to keep our areas abundant with life all year round. We had some very special nesting bumble bees! Children have been able to experience the life cycle of plants by harvesting seeds, planting them, nurturing them, and harvesting the vegetables, developing patience while watching things grow. This is followed by DT lessons indoors cooking and eating their produce.
The enclosed pond area enables us to study wildlife in different habitats. Children are able to experience first hand different environments and how they change throughout the year. We have observed many animals such as frogs, newts, a range of minibeasts and we have even had a visiting heron!
Our sensory garden, at the heart of the school, and can be seen from most central areas of our school. It gives a space for peaceful reflection, with sound and smell along with a variety of beautiful colours and objects.
Our tree dens make use of ancient trees that have had to be cut down, the children are able to use gross motor skills whilst climbing, be courageous whilst developing social skills by cooperating with each other. Creativity in using what is available to them makes the possibilities endless!