We often hear of good work going on in schools and nurseries around the country to encourage teachers to use the outdoor classroom. We know that taking children outside can open up all sorts of possibilities to teach a range of skills and we thought this week would be a good week to highlight some of the initiatives we like. We asked Claire Lowery of Eastfield Academy in Northampton to share some of her experiences with our readers. Claire is positively evangelical about using the school garden to teach all kinds of skills. Here are just some of her ideas.
At Eastfield Academy we are very lucky to have a fantastic school vegetable patch. These are some of the ways in which we utilise the space to develop our early literacy in the Early Years. With a high proportion of our children having English as an Additional Language, huge emphasis is placed on encouraging the children to talk and to develop their vocabulary. We passionately believe that this is achieved through giving our children rich and real experiences. Therefore we take the children on weekly walks which take many guises…
In this instance the children created their own ‘treasure maps’ with meaningful marks. They then ‘read’ them to find the treasure. Perfect for encouraging reading and writing for a purpose.
Another example is from when we focused on developing the use of spoken prepositions. We hid ‘aliens’ all over the garden and encouraged the children to describe where they were.
We also like to create props in our workshop which we can then take to the school garden to test and use. In this instance we created bug catchers! Opportunities for reading the environmental print and signs were encouraged.
I am yet to meet a group of children who are not intrigued by minibeasts. A good old fashioned minibeast hunt creates opportunities for talking and recording what they have found. Encouraging the children to pose questions and use reference books or the internet back in the classroom to find out more.
Taking scissors out to the garden to trim the hedges is super cutting practice. We also set up some turf back in the nursery to continue with this skill development.
Harvest time is a great time to develop those fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination needed for writing! Again positional language, describing words and counting all are developed here too.
When we returned to Nursery we squished and squashed the blackcurrants to flavour the yogurt. Further opportunities to develop the children’s language- extending their vocabulary through developing describing words.
Following harvesting the pumpkins the children were challenged to predict what they thought would be inside the pumpkin. They made meaningful marks and drew, explaining to the teacher their thoughts and ideas about what they thought would be inside.
We then opened the pumpkin together and took it in turns to ‘feel’ the contents on the pumpkin using our describing words.
These are just a few of the examples of how we use the school vegetable patch and we can see that all of these opportunities to develop talk and early literacy will impact on their reading and writing as the children move through the school. Introducing the children to word groups such as adjectives, encouraging them to pose questions and organise their thoughts and ideas. Who would have thought it…grammar in the garden!