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The Benefits of Using a Curriculum Within the Outdoor Environment sample essay

If education is a voyage of discovery, why not explore the opportunities to take learning outside? Chiara Pannozzo The Early Years are a time of unrivalled personal discovery, in which each day holds the potential for adventure for a child – and nowhere offers greater potential for adventure than the great outdoors. ‘The benefits of outdoor play are really very basic,’ says Harry Harbottle, a consultant in play and risk management, who was formerly appointed by the EU as a child safety expert to the European Standards Organisation.

If children aren’t allowed to engage with the elements – mud, water, air, even fire – how can they begin to understand the world that they live in? ‘ Harry argues that there is a need to move away from a culture of reluctance to let children explore outdoors. ‘We are at last realising the consequences of children spending most of their time indoors,’ says Harry. ‘There are too many children who have been adversely affected by a lack of exercise and stimulation. ‘ The outdoor environment is a rich, dynamic and natural space to enhance the school curriculum and stimulates quality learning and development in children of all ages.

Its value as an essential learning resource has been recognized by many pieces of research and more recently with the ‘Eraly Uears Foundation Stage (EYFS), particularly within the principle of ‘ Enabling Environments’. Outdoor activities, whether they be core National Curriculum core subject or foundation based, can always be adapted, if necessary, for children with additional learning needs/physical disabilities by the teacher doing a reckie of the area outside which is to be used and then assessing how circumstances can be adapted for pupils with such difficulties.

Also, a buddy can be placed with a child who has additional needs and assistance given when necessary. It is imperative that restrictions are only placed for health and safety reasons; otherwise, one should always endeavour to give children ownership to encourage a sense of independence and success. To give an example of how an activity could be adapted for children with additional learning needs/physical disability: Making hot chocolate drinks in Kelly Kettle •Children collect kindling in areas accessible to them •Children stay at base position to help build the waffle raft for fire •Children organize kindling into different sizes

When the curriculum is taken into the outdoor environment, children have been observed having confidence and independence with activities they have pursued, providing them with a sense of success and raised self esteem. Children will develop relationships (PSHE) with their peers and adults. As confidence grows, children will begin to consider the needs of others (disabled/additional learning needs), as well as individually. Practitioners in the woodland have reflected that children in this environment had gained confidence in adapting to new situations and in trying new experiences.

This also impacted on their ability to choose activities independently and their confidence in self initiating tasks was seen to develop dramatically. To give an example of an obvious benefit of bringing the curriculum into the outdoor environment: Child X enjoyed making shelters and would often enlist the aid of one his/her peers by sayon, “Oh – this log is heavy, can you help me ? ” The other children present would the all work as a team by holding onto the large log and assist moving it into position. Child X had acquired more skill in making and strengthening friendships , the art of consideration and compromise – “Can I help you? instead of “That’s mine! ”. Though these changes may be maturational, children’s experiences gave them real opportunities for practising these elementary life skills. ‘

Through their comments (the significant other), practitioners should see their role as very varied and should include: ensuring the environment is safe, allowing the children choice of equipment such as, ropes, trowels and buckets, observing and valuing their self initiated learning. Practitioners should feel by questioning, suggesting and providing propts/props, they can extend children’s self-initiated development.

Dowling describes self-initiated play as spontaneous, where the practitioner can choose to be involved by participating alongside and offering a reassuring presence. Such an important aspect needs to be adopted by all adults who work with children involved in bringing the curriculum into the outdoor environment, if this is to be a successful element for children’s potential learning. “The adult needs to be aware of the potential for learning in children’s play, but this is a very different matter from predetermining the play. ’ – Dowling (1992)

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