Merrylands Primary School, Cumberland Drive, Laindon, Basildon, Essex, SS15 6QS
Project Manager: Barry Howard
This Project was the Youth Sports Trust Key Stage 2 Benchmark Outdoor Education Project for the UK 2010-2013
Hunter Outdoor Training's delivery of the 'Achievement for All' national initiative has been commended by the Department for Education's 'National Strategies' :
"The outdoor education being well thought through and genuinely contributing to the value of the curriculum; the school environment which has been created is exceptional" (Ofsted)
During the early part of 2007 I visited Merrylands Primary School in my role as School Sport Coordinator [Outdoor Education] for the Basildon area. I noticed the school's outstanding potential for sport-related outdoor education, wilderness based survival skills, and curriculum integrated outdoor environmental education.
My aim was to create and implement a plan to develop a ground-breaking form of outdoor education which would inter-weave with all parts of the curriculum in all years in KS2, undertaking to introduce - and subsequently make 'normal' - the use of the outdoors by pupils who will use hands-on practical work to learn environmental, sports, life, and academic techniques and skills.
In consultation with the SSCo Primary Link Teacher Tom Robinson, the then Headteacher Coryn Whymark, and school Governors, a comprehensive plan was drawn up to develop the site into a pupil-centered outdoor education workshop, living laboratory, and competition level orienteering course, and last but certainly not least, a wilderness survival training area on an area of 'scrubland' on the school site.
The Project started formally at the beginning of September 2007. Each curriculum subject for Years 4, 5 and 6 has been carefully analysed to identify where an outdoor learning component can be justifiably, and meaningfully included, as this is not just being out of the classroom for the sake of it.
By June 2008, the pupils in Year 6 had gone through the trialling of the subject-linked outdoor work. They realised what it meant to be away from central heating for a couple of hours in autumn and winter! The draft programmes of study have been very successful, and we were right to be excited about the formalisation of these in the 2008-9 academic year. 2009-10 saw the programmes firmed up and innovations built on knowledge of existing good-practice.
Year 5 last year went through a comprehensive outdoor challenge programme linked to survival skills through a wide range of problem solving exercises and orienteering techniques. This programme had been built on previous skills learnt throughout the term and also expected some transference to the classroom of some of the life-skills adopted week upon week through the challenges presented. Again we witnessed enthusiasm, and learning, and from the pupils a realisation that outdoor study, work, and pursuits is still a part of school and the learning environment.
We have been very careful to not make the outdoor learning components so super-structured that 'freedom' is inhibited. There is often no 'one-right-answer' to what we are studying, and pupils' individual expression is critical to much of what we do.
The 2013-14 Year 5s successfully developed foundational skills in first aid, survival skills, and mapwork/compasswork, all in the last academic year and we are seeing mature approaches to being 'out' - not just in the learning of subject-specific skills but also in their life skills of listening to, remembering, and carrying out instructions, working selflessly in teams, and developing grit and determination.
Currently Year 4s are committed to over 3hrs per week undertaking a series of both curriculum-linked activities and outdoor challenges.
The basis of the Project is three fold: pupils have a right to learn away from the confines of the classroom; if outdoor learning and education expertise is available then they should not be denied it; encourage enthusiasm in all outdoor learning which will have a positive knock-on effect upon classroom learning.
The aims, however, are to develop a thirst for an understanding, at KS2, of the interdependence of the natural world on the Merrylands Primary School site, with everything outdoors being not just linked to, but inextricably bound up with classroom studies, and teach some of the foundational skills to appreciate wilderness; the latter is not incidental.
A large proportion of the life skills part of the Project involves the development of personal and corporate responsibility on behalf of the pupils, especially in the teaching and learning of genuine teamwork. What we as a Project Management Team [ Headteacher, B.J.Howard, T. Robinson plus Yr. 4, teachers ] want to achieve is a project which provides education in such a 'bombarding' way that every pupil finds their own 'niche-enthusiasm' and works with more and different people within their own class, developing listening skills, memory skills, perhaps leadership qualities, and those of personal organisation, planning, and decision making.
A tall order for KS2 in a busy suburban school with a full timetable and curriculum then? Absolutely, but the pupils are engaged, and we have all their attention now. There is still a place for excitement in learning, and all the ingredients mentioned above are in the school 'pot' to produce something that will be educationally meaningful, equipping our young children to handle the forthcoming KS3 curriculum with more confidence and interest.
For more information, to request a visit to see the Project in action, or to get involved please contact the Hunter office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most aspects of this course are the intellectual property of B.J.Howard & Hunter Outdoor Training. Be aware that outdoor education and training necessarily means the use of potentially dangerous equipment if misused, and involves being outside in all weathers albeit under expert guidance and instruction. The material, methods, philosophy, and skills, taught and delivered over the course of a school project have been exhaustively trialled and used over decades but takes no account of the potential behaviour of pupils on a day-to-day basis. No pupils work in total isolation at any time, on any course, but on a number of occasions adults are not working 'shoulder to shoulder' with them, thus giving the youth the opportunity to prove their learnt/innate ability to work at ever increasing levels of independence, which we believe is part of the process of maturing into 'fully-orbed' young people.