Quite some time ago, I received an email from LEAF about the possibility of getting University Teaching Students out to the farm and involved in the schools work we do. This made me think; firstly, what a great opportunity to enthuse future teachers about outdoor learning! Also, oh how I wish that I’d seen a qualified teacher running a successful outdoor learning centre when I trained and knew it was possible to use your degree in a different way! That might have made those difficult moments in teaching a little easier. So, with this in mind and feeling excited to meet the teachers of tomorrow, we agreed.
On Monday morning last week Alice and Yasmin from Oxford Brookes University arrived on the farm, for a day of planning, preparing and getting to know the site.
It was great to work with them and hear their ideas and suggestions for what they might do with a group of year 5/6 pupils. They came up with maths problems for children to work out as they walked around the farm and created a risk assessment for the visit later in the week.
On Wednesday the girls were back, for a full day school visit from a local primary school. They really impressed me with the way they worked with the pupils, engaging all of them in a maths walk activity and using their teaching skills from University to get the most out of the children.
Friday was their final day on the farm, they came a little later in the morning to set things up for a Key Stage 1 Forest School visit from another local school. We prepared the site, got equipment ready and I filled the girls in on how we keep the children safe at Forest Schools and the whole ethos of Forest School learning. It amazes me every time, that when talking about what we do I get a sudden boost of enthusiasm. It’s as though watching a film and seeing something really exciting unfold and the more I talk about it the more passionate I get about the work we are blessed by doing!
The Forest School group on Friday did not fail to encourage me and the students; every child was engaged, they did everything on offer from exploring to bug catching, building dens and digging holes! The children did not want to leave at the end of the afternoon and again, it was a privilege to be part of their learning and gaining new experiences outside. A few things struck me about this group in particular; one was that the children were incredibly kind to one another, helping each other with new and more challenging tasks. Another was that the children need very little to create a whole imaginary world around them and the questions that are asked by the teachers, students and helpers could change a blanket on a tree to a whole house with a kitchen, bedroom and even a chimney on top (made from a bit of broken off bark!).
I hope that throughout the week the students felt empowered to take children out of the classroom as I believe it is vital for rounded education. Children can succeed in new ways outside the classroom, on the few days I spent with Alice and Yasmin I could see that they have the ability to enhance school learning, using the outdoors. It is an exciting future for education with teachers being trained to work outside with children!