Outdoor Learning- Forest School and OPAL play
Forest School - Our Wonderful Woodland
We are blessed with extensive and varied school grounds consisting of a field and woodland spaces. We love this special place for play and learning!
The key features of our outdoor area will and do include:
- Extensive woodland boundary, allowing space for play, forest schools and cross-curricular learning
- Wildflower meadow
- Early years play area
- Creation station / invention shed
We recognise the importance of the outdoors for children and know how much our children love to learn in our school grounds and local community. Outdoor spaces naturally create different learning opportunities for children and help them to develop wider curriculum skills such as resilience, collaboration and imagination. Our school play times are planned to be engaging and fun for all our children. We will also be incorporating learning outside of the classroom into our curriculum time, helping to create memorable and enjoyable experiences that extend beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Our school move is helping us to meticulously review the needs of our children and is enabling us to develop a new outdoor space that our children will thrive in. Our play and outdoor learning projects are still under development, however, we are creating plans and raising funds to enhance our field space and provide high quality, sustainable environments for our children.
Through a combination of planned and child initiated activities our weekly Forest School sessions provide opportunities for our children to explore, investigate, make connections and express themselves. The space and the resources we can provide in our woodland area allows our children to develop their creative and critical thinking skills across all areas of learning.
We enjoy our woods all year round so being prepared is an important part of our weekly sessions. Getting dressed in appropriate clothing and then physically getting to our woods is all part of our Forest School routine. The challenges that this routine provides help our children to gain practical self help skills, improve their muscle control, physical strength and stamina. This in turn has a positive impact on their emotional and mental well being.
Embracing our outdoor environment gives our children the time and space to build strong social relationships, share their knowledge and discover new skills . Enabling each child to independently explore their own interests and build a greater understanding of their wider world. Our wonderful woodland gives our school community a space where we can develop into happy, healthy life long learners.
'At OPAL we have seen just how much of an impact improving play can make to a school. We are not just talking about playtimes being a bit less bother or about children being a bit happier. We are talking about cultural transformation.
When you address a need that is so fundamental to children's physical and mental well-being as play, and you do it well, it is impossible to think of how you ran a school and didn’t do this.
Our vision is that every child in every school has an amazing hour of high-quality play every day – with no exceptions. If one child is not enjoying playtimes, then things still need improving.
We want every school to plan for, resource and evaluate the quality of their play provision as if it were an important human right, essential to all aspects of children’s development and a source of joy and happiness that every child can access because it is all of these things.
Childhood has changed and we can no longer assume that any child is able to experience full and rich play opportunities outside of school.
At OPAL we believe that play teaches children all of the things that need to be learnt but cannot be taught. There are clearly lots of benefits to children from having lots of great play, but the good news is that there are also many benefits for schools too.
To find why schools need great play, please contact us and let's have a chat. You'll be amazed at the benefits... including dramatic improvements in;
- Behaviour - happy children don't cause nearly as much trouble as bored children
- Accidents - OPAL schools have up to 80% less reported accidents
- Staff well-being - Supervising happier children leads to happier staff
- SLT time - senior leaders report a dramatic reduction in the time they spend on resolving play conflicts
- Teachers - consistently report more teaching time in afternoon lessons
- Self-regulation - children in OPAL schools learn to self regulate through practice, trust and freedom
- Physical activity - all children, including girls, SEN and non-sporty children are significantly more active
- Mental well-being - Research shows OPAL children are happier and self-reporting improved mental health
- Social and emotional development - Good play in the laboratory of life where relationships are practised
- Links to formal learning - Many OPAL schools report increased creativity, imagination and collaborative skills
- Attendance - children can't wait to come to OPAL schools because they have such fun
- Parents - we all want our children to be happy. Well informed parents at OPAL schools love it that their children are happier
- Rights - Play is a child's right as recognised by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- OFSTED - OPAL schools can easily provide evidence on their approach to wellbeing and inclusion
- Risk - OPAL schools report significant improvements in children's ability to identify and manage risk