In this high-tech, digital age, where children have every opportunity to hide passively behind a screen, learning in the outdoors has never been more essential. The benefits of outdoor learning are huge in supporting the social, emotional, academic and physical development of our children. At St Wystan’s we are delighted to see our pupils reaping the benefits of a planned outdoor curriculum through our regular Woodland School sessions, led by a trained outdoor learning teacher.
So, why should we be heading for the outdoors and celebrating its glory?
- Get outside and moving. Quite simply, children are rarely still when they are outdoors! They swim, run, paddle, make, dig, climb, construct, forage and so much more. It goes without saying that physical activity combats childhood obesity, an area of global concern, and one we all need to have an eye on. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Physical activity is also known to improve attention span and the ability to concentrate, leading to better learning and overall greater academic achievement.
- Healthy minds and happy children. In a post-pandemic world, where concerns surrounding our children’s mental health have peaked, the wellbeing of our children is paramount. We have all stood by a stream, on a hillside, in the water, on the sand and felt a little better in ourselves. Nature engages all our senses, and without a doubt, this has a positive impact on our wellbeing. Just being outdoors is known to make us happier, reduce our stress and anxiety levels, and pick us and our mood up.
- Don’t put a ceiling on it. We want our children to be adventurous and to have the confidence to take risks with their learning – to aim high, take the next step, lift the ceiling and not be afraid to make mistakes. At St Wystan’s, our Woodland School encourages all the above in a planned manner and in a safe, familiar environment. Our children happily attempt new challenges in the outdoors, and this in turn gives them the confidence and mindset to take risks with their learning back in the classroom – be it maths, English, drama, art or otherwise.
- Collaboration is key. When our children are learning outdoors, they are motivated to collaborate and to problem solve together. In this environment they are pushed (in a positive way) to communicate with their peers, to tease out ideas, to cooperate, to plan, to celebrate achievements and to manage conflicts together. All of this is vital as children develop, as social beings, with the need for solid social skills. The bonus is, it is all transferable and we see it back in the classroom too.
- Mud is good. Mud is a great medium for play, hopefully you remember this from your own childhood! The feeling of mud on our hands and feet engages all the senses and when the senses are stimulated, children learn best. Mud is also a creative tool that leads to creative play and thinking. We can pat it, stir it, flatten it, squelch it, slap it, throw it and even paint with it. It’s easy to make, doesn’t cost a penny and there is no cleaning up required at the end – the messier the better. And don’t worry about the germs; they can actually stimulate the immune system and apparently make us happier!
- For the fun of it. Sometimes we need our children to just enjoy the fresh air and the new challenges and experiences on offer. St Wystan’s pupils return to school with muddy wellies and rosy cheeks, with apple sculptures, smears of toasted s’mores from a woodland fire on their chins, and claims that: ‘Mr P forgot the paint so we had to use mud!’. When children have fun, they go back for more, and all the above benefits continue.
At St Wystan’s, our Woodland School is an essential part of our planned curriculum and takes place all year round in an apple orchard, an approximate four-minute walk (dependent upon leg length!) from school. All pupils take part, be it rain, snow, sunshine or any other weather thrown our way, from the very youngest in Reception to the oldest in Form 6. At each session, our pupils experience a guided activity followed by time for personal exploration and investigation. They return to school sparky and smiling, and quite often muddy!
We are delighted to announce that St Wystan’s has a number of spaces available for those who may be looking to consider independent options for their child’s education starting this September 2023. If you would like to arrange a tour of the School or find out further information, please contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01283 703258.
Ms Kara Lebihan Headteacher at St Wystan’s School
Kara Lebihan is the Headteacher at St Wystan’s, a small independent school with a warm family feel, situated in the heart of Repton village. Our friendly staff will be delighted to assist you with your enquiries about our school and to arrange a personal tour at a time that works for you.