Category Archives: Outdoor Learning

Celebrating Learning about the Bean Geese

Yvonne McBlain from Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team attended a great celebration of  interdisciplinary learning at Slamannan Primary School on 29th May. Primary 4/5 and primary 5/6 have been part of some ground-breaking science work in partnership with the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage. They have been studying a species of goose which visits the fields around their school during the winter. The Slamannan plateau is the ONLY place in Scotland that these geese occur, and scientists have been trying for 20 years to discover where they go when they leave Slamannan. Partners from RSPB worked with Mrs Murray and Mr Findlay and their pupils to find out how to observe, capture, monitor and then track the geese as they left in springtime.

The pupils shared their valuable interdisciplinary learning with an invited audience via a power point presentation and received Certificates of Distinction in their learning from SNH and RSPB. They were presented with a class set of binoculars so that they can continue their observations of the Bean geese next winter. The pupils were excitied to discover that RSPB and SNH will work with them again next session and follow up on the pupils’ suggestion that they communicate with people who live where the Bean geese go for the summer. See pictures of the Bean Goose Project display below, and visit the pupils’ blog to find out where they tracked the geese down to.

Christopher in primary 6 said that his favourite part of the project was tracking the geese, and pupils in primary 4/5 said they enjoyed “All of it!”

Primary Probationers Go Outdoors!

Jane Jackson, Outdoor Learning Development Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, has been working with the primary probationer teachers exploring how outdoor learning can become an integral part of their planning and teaching.   

There is no better way to demonstrate the range of ways that outdoor learning can contribute to CfE than by getting out there and doing it yourself.  The probationers took part in a wide range of activities, after having got the fire going and set up our base for the day.

They all agreed that we have covered many curricular areas with some very simple, fun, exciting activities  that could readily be used for further learning back at school.

The main purpose of the session was to challenge participants thinking about outdoor learning and to raise awareness of the benefits of learnng outside the classroom.



Wallacestone Wanderers – Nursery Outdoor Learning

Wallacestone Nursery are about to embark on an Outdoor Learning Project.  The children will be visiting Lionthorn Estate on a regular basis with effect from 29th May 2013. 

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, facilitated two parent information sessions to advise parents of this new venture. (see presentation)

This is part of Early Years Officer, Heather Cochrane’s  Start Right Project and she has lead this initiative and will share her report with colleagues as part of this professional development programme.  She is still looking for funding to purchase all-in-one weather suits for the children.

“Here are some of the comments from parents after the information session:- 

“My child will really enjoy this experience and I think it will really help her confidence and problem solving skills.  Looks like it will be great fun.”

“My son will gain more confidence and understanding of risks and outdoor.  I think this will be very good for my child, as he does not get to take risks with me as much as he could.  He will thoroughly enjoy himself.”

“Very enthusiastic.  I work as an Ecologist and really feel this area of learning could be introduced at an early age.  Gives them an alternative classroom with a whole different range of skills to learn.”

“Very interested and excited – I think my son will get a lot from outdoor learning experiences, in terms of physical activity, confidence-building, risk assessment and social interactions.  Also, might encourage us as a family to spend more time out of doors too!”

Watch this space for photos and videos of the Wallacestone Wanderers first trip!

Airth Nursery Class – Larbert NHS Site

Airth Nursery Class have also embarked on the Outdoor Learning Early Years Project.  They are visiting the Larbert NHS Woodland Site on a regular basis.  A group of 10 children are off-site every week on a Tuesday for the full nursery session.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, visited the group on 30th April.

 It was clear that the children are becoming more confident in this new exciting environment and they were able to explain to Karen what they like to do in the woods and where they like to explore.

During the session, it was clear to see that the children are experiencing a wide range of Curriculum for Excellence Outcomes and Experiences for example:-

The children noticed that there were more ‘flowers’ (daffodils and dandelions) than their previous visit.  They are discussing and examining the changes that have occurred since they were last here.   (I explore and discover the interesting features of my local environment to develop an awareness of the world around me.  SOC 0-07a

 On the walk to the woods, one child decided to count the dandelions at the side of the path.  (I am developing a sense of size and amount by observing, using and communicating with other about things in the world around me.  MNU 0-01a).  She discovered that there were “80 dandelions!”

It was one of the few sunny days that we experience in Scotland and the children noticed that their shadows were cast onto the path.  They asked the question “why is my shadow in front of me but when I turn around it is still there?”   This began a conversation about where the sun was in the sky and how this has created the shadow there.  Later on in the session, when the sun had moved, the children recalled this discussion and noticed that “my shadow has now moved to the side of me”  (By observing and recording the sun and moon at various times, I can describe their patterns of movement and changes over time SCN 1-06a). 

We then went for a walk around the pond.  The children were keen to feed the ducks and tried to attract them over to them.  Where the children were standing was very mucky and the children commented that they should move to another spot as the ducks would not come over in the muck.  We discussed that we might have to be a bit quieter as they may be scared of us. 

At the water the children also explored a variety of objects and whether they would sink or float and which object made the biggest splash!

Throughout all these child directed activities they are developing a curiosity and understanding of their environment and their place in the living, material and physical world.

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St Patrick’s Primary School CAT Session

Jane Jackson, Outdoor Development Officer and Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer – Falkirk Council Education Services Curriculum Support Team, were invited to facilitate a CAT session for all teaching staff at St. Patrick’s Primary School on 29th April.  This is a follow up to the project that has been embraced by the Nursery Staff in getting the children off site regularly for the whole nursery session (see previous blog).

During this session, the staff took part in a number of practical activities that could be used with a class when taking them outside.  These activities ranged from creating a clock using natural materials to writing poetry.  See sample planner of activities.

Here are some of the poems that were created:

“North I stood facing the wood
to the East was buzzing a bumblebee
I turned to the West in my waterproof vest
then down to the South I spotted Grangemouth”

“Blue skies, fluffy clouds
what do you feel underground?
Turn around, what do you see?
bare trees and one queen bee
Church spire, lets enquire ….
I’m off to explore!”

Karen Downie, Principal Teacher, has already reported on the impact of the session – “Thanks for Monday night, I have to admit there was a wee buzz around the school on Tuesday and the foyer door was revolving all day with classes going outside.”

St Patrick’s staff will continue to develop Outdoor Learning within their school and Karen and Jane will carry out a follow up session on Monday 13th May.  Staff are also planning a full day outside on Friday 21st June as part of the ‘Play on the Longest Day’ initiative.

Watch this space for more information and some photos!

St Andrew’s Nursery Class – Outdoor Learning

St Andrew’s Nursery Class are the latest nursery to embark on the Outdoor Learning Project.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, has supported staff, pupils and parents in the development of this programme.

Having met with staff and identified a site within Callendar Park, Karen met with parents to offer an information session (click here for presentation).  Some of the staff also visited another nursery to see how they ran their outdoor sessions as part of the preparation to getting off-site. 

The main aim of the project is to give children the opportunity to explore and play in the natural environment, using it as a stimulus for learning.  The children are actively encouraged to self-assess the risks and challenge themselves in this new exciting environment.  During the first session, the children took part in a number of activites:-

Measuring – children used a variety of materials to measure their hand, arm, leg and height and compare the sizes.  (I have experimented with everyday items as units of measure to investigate and compare sizes and amounts in my environment, sharing my findings with others – MNU 0-11a).

Sorting and Matching – the children found a variety of objects and brought them back to camp.  They were then involved in the discussion how to categorise these – this became a detailed discussion as some children were wishing alternative categories.  “I want to put the green leaf in the green pile and not with the other brown leaves”.  The children also discussed at great length how to sort the varying sizes of sticks and how to tell the difference between a stick and a twig.  (I can match objects, and sort using my own and others’ criteria, sharing my ideas with others – MNU 0-20b).

It was then decided that the children would go exploring to see what else we could find.  A group of children found a huge puddle that ran all the way under the bridge and had a fantastic time splashing and playing the water – they were very wet!!  We also found frog spawn at the side of the water which has brought to life the Spring/Life Cycle Topic they are currently investigating in nursery.

A great first session in the woods!

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Bright Beginnings Nursery

On the way to camp - this is very interesting!

Bright Beginnings Nursery is the first Falkirk Council Commissioned Partner Nursery to embark on the Outdoor Learning Project.  Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team initially visted the staff during a meeting to discuss any issues and logistics they may face while taking on this new venture.  Karen then attended a parents information session in February to explain the benefits of Outdoor Learning and Natural Play.  The staff also came along to a visit to Callendar Park with Comely Park Nursery Class as an informal training session (many thanks to Comely Park staff for enabling this to happen) – staff have commented how beneficial this session was and the children at Bright Beginnings are now going out to Callendar Park to spend a nursery session outdoors.  The feedback from staff, children and parents has been excellent.  The Manager has stated that this has been an excellent project for all the staff to be working on and the staff who have already been are very enthusiastic about going back (as are the children!).  Initially it is the 3-5 year old children who are taking part in this project, however parents of the younger children are now asking when it will be their child’s turn.  Once the staff and 3-5 aged children have established their sessions in the woods it is hoped that the 2 year old children will also have the opportunity to experience this exciting learning environmnent.  Watch this space!!

During the sessions, children were interested in Callendar House and the children visited the kitchen and the exhibition in the gallery.

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Stirling University – Outdoor Learning

Initial Task - Den Building

Karen Thomson, Senior Early Years Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team was invited to facilitate an Outdoor Learning session  for Third year initial teacher education students at Stirling University. The students were provided with a brief overview of how Outdoor Learning has developed in early years establishments over the last year.

The students then took part in a variety of different activities ranging from den building to  storytelling.  Here are some of the comments received from the students:-

“Unlike the weather, the morning we spent with Karen was fantastic.  Not only was it great fun and full of inspiring ideas, but I feel it’s really given me the confidence I was lacking to take children outside and utilise the natural resources we are surrounded with.  I’ve since contacted a local nursery and I’m scheduled to spend time with them during their forest school sessions.  This will help develop my knowledge and confidence further in this aspect of teaching, however without Karen’s enthusiasm its not something I would probably have done.”  

“The session served in the first instance to help when dealing with concerns from care-givers on the risks associated with outdoor learning, Karen and Laura highlighted that the use of research and associated data on accidents would be key in allaying concerns.  The practical element of the lesson highlighted the opportunities for cross curricular learning with the literacy and story telling exercises, numeracy with the clock making, learning new skill, taking risks through novel physical activity and hopefully the children then becoming advocates in their own households when they return home expressing the enjoyment they have had during the lesson.”

 “The session was great, I really enjoyed the teaching ideas for the early level, such as finding the numbers hidden in the woods, and making a clock to teach time. I feel a lot more confident about taking learning outdoors and can’t wait to try out some of the ideas!”

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Taking Science Outdoors

A group of primary teachers spent a very wet morning with Jane Jackson,  Outdoor Learning Development Officer, Falkirk Council Curriculum Support Team, exploring how to deliver Science in the outdoors.

Practical ideas from several of the CfE science organisers were demonstrated, and included exploring how small mammals keep warm during the cold, wet winter months.  The participants insulated their own ‘home made’ mammals in a range of ways and there was a lot of competition when we re-tested their core temperatures after 20 mins!

As well as giving teachers some practical ideas, the course encouraged participants to think about their planning, and consider where taking their learning outdoors would enhance the teaching and learnng experience for pupils.

Links to some of the supporting material used on the day can be found below:

minibeast ID key

nature detective resources

Science E’s and O’s handout