“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth,[a] and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” (Job 12 7-10)
At St Catherine of Siena we recognise that the best place for pupils to learn may not always be in the classroom environment. The outdoors is seen as another, much larger classroom with an abundance of natural resources and many opportunities for real-life learning. We acknowledge and actively teach about the importance of outdoor leaning and sustainability and have worked to produce many outdoor learning opportunities across the curriculum. We have extensive grounds that have been adapted to enable a wide variety of outdoor teaching to take place. Our facilities include: a large playing field and wooded area; playgrounds with apparatus for climbing; purpose built areas for the Foundation Stage; raised beds for growing fruit, vegetables and flowering plants; a water butt; compost bins; a bug hotel and the highlight – a farm with chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs.
In 2019, we were delighted to be awarded Woodland Trust Platinum Award. Our pupils completed fun, practical projects whilst helping the environment and improving our school grounds. We also took part in the ‘Just One Tree’ project and raised money to plant trees and spread awareness of environmental issues.
Forest School at St Catherine of Siena is run by an experienced and passionate practitioner, Mr Phil, with support from the Class Teachers and Teaching Assistants. It is based on the principle that children of all ages can benefit greatly from learning opportunities inherently present in a woodland environment. Forest school provides our pupils with the chance, in an outdoor setting, to develop a variety of skills: particularly PSHE skills such as independence, self-discovery, communication, self-esteem and confidence building. Children learn to take risks and to use their initiative and cooperate.
Forest School is also used as an opportunity for learning to take place across the curriculum: through art activities; as a vehicle for explaining key scientific concepts; by developing physical skills and lots more. The sessions may contain an adult-led activity however, most of the time, is child-led and the pupils are afforded time to follow their own learning pathways and interests: always closely supported and guided by adults.
Here are some photos of recent Forest School sessions: