Salli Hall, Head of Prep at Kent College, shares her thoughts on the importance of outdoor learning and the multitude of ways to enjoy being outside.
This is a collaborative post with Kent College.
Having climbed the steep learning curve of remote learning and cleverly adapted to on-line lessons, children are spending more time on screens than ever before and, with fewer hours of daylight and colder weather, conditions are ripe for lethargy and a general lack of motivation; opportunities for keeping children active and outside, especially if it’s fun, is a good antidote to this.
Outdoors is unstructured and untidy, full of hiding places and things to be discovered. It is brilliant for promoting wellbeing and building motivation and confidence – everything we need to ensure our children are moving forwards in their growth and development.
The sense of freedom and vitality that children feel playing outdoors is very different to the energy they feel when playing inside. When you take away the constraints of space, children will climb, jump, swing, run, shout and explore to their hearts’ content.
Studies have shown that children who are surrounded by and regularly exposed to nature have improved concentration skills and play more imaginatively. They can lose themselves in make believe and conversation, make up stories and develop language skills, crucial to communication and later on, writing.
There is myriad of ways to enjoy being outside – from a simple walk to an elaborate den building project, from making mud creatures to constructing an obstacle course from surrounding natural materials. Outside, children will experience changes in the weather, seasons and nature and see how that affects those creatures who live in it. This might lead to the creation of weather diaries, maps, bug hunts and hotels, learning about animals, their habitats, and lifecycles. Playing hide and seek, collecting natural materials to make collage. The choices are endless, and the level of involvement can be completely child led, giving them the responsibility to decide how much or little they want to do.
At Kent College Prep School, being outdoors is an essential part of our curriculum and children are encouraged to explore our beautiful outdoor spaces and the woodland in Forest School. Set in 75 acres of countryside we have an abundance of space, resources and superb facilities for our children to use. Forest School is part of our curriculum and all children have lessons outside where they can think creatively and develop skills which will prepare them for life.
Kent College Prep School welcomes boys into Nursery and, from September 2021, Reception class. Boys will be allowed to join each successive year group until the school is fully co-educational in 2027.