Creating ‘Cotton Wool Kids’

An outside learning revolution in the heart of Brixton – Christ Church Primary School SW9

Written by Contributor on May 9, 2014

 Christ Church Primary School is running a counter offensive against a system blamed for creating ‘cotton wool kids’ by getting its children back outdoors. Matthew Smitheman speaks to Sarah Wordlaw, a teacher at the school, to find out more.

Christ Church Rooftop Garden “We began embedding the outdoors in our curriculum,” says Sarah, “because we have so many children who come to us with various challenges. We also have a team of staff who are passionate about outdoor learning.” She’s keen to point out that their outdoor learning is accessible to all, no matter what learning boundaries a pupil might have. “The Forest School style learning environment provides many learning opportunities for children; to develop self-esteem, to form positive relationships and more,” she continues.

The setting allows the children to engage with the natural environment, and to explore and experience the natural world through practical activities. The school includes a forest area, rooftop garden with pizza oven and other outdoor learning areas including a pond and a vegetable patch. These were all funded from the school budget. Naturally, however, there were challenges convincing parents to move away from the attitude that learning has to be solely inside a classroom. The school argued, for example, that maths, literacy and other subjects are just as well taught outdoors as they could be indoors. And the school now provides waterproof gear for children so their uniforms are kept clean and dry. There is no compromise of balance of learning because whilst outside children are following a scheme of work that covers the curriculum. It truly is outdoor learning.

“The children go out in all weathers,” adds Sarah, “and all year round. They explore and learn from the four seasons and environment changes. The children’s interest, along with the varied natural resources in the woodland, are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development – all under the guise of play.”

The staff at Christ Church believe outdoor education, the enriching learning activities and forward thinking teaching and learning methods they have in place, are equipping children with higher-level thinking skills in an increasingly competitive world.

Most of the school’s activities are child-led but some are planned by the practitioner. During the sessions the children have the chance to develop a variety of crucial skills like confidence, social skills, motivation and concentration, physical skills, as well as knowledge and understanding new perspectives. And it’s undeniable that having the self-esteem and confidence to communicate effectively, to negotiate and to lead, are all essential skills required for successful future careers. Sarah and her colleagues want children to leave Christ Church confident, competent and passionate about learning.

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