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The Best of Outdoors

Nine outdoor activities for learning and fun. Trialed by make:good, the teachers, staff and pupils of Belvue School.


After a glorious 6 months at Belvue school we have learned, explored, danced and laughed lots. We have worked with every class at least once and have loved getting to know staff and students. Everybody has been willing to get involved in our Let’s go outsisde project and we hope that this enthusiasm for being outside stays with you for a long time to come. We have had loads of amazing experiences but we have collected 9 of the best activites and put them in this book to inspire you to keep going outside. These ideas aren’t just ours but are a collection of thoughts from staff and students so a great big thank you to everybody for mucking in and sharing your ideas so freely. Enjoy! Tom & Catherine


Temporary Classroom Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 30 mins Activity: 25 mins build + lesson activity

Lessons:

• • • • • • •

30 x Bamboo Canes 30 x Tennis Balls 1 Large Tarpaulin 6 Hay Bales or 10 Cushions 1 Class 1 pair Scissors

• Cut tarpaulin into oval and use scissors to make holes at regular intervals. • Meanwhile slice tennis balls and place over the end of each bamboo cane. (make holes at both ends and slide several spaced down each cane for more privacy! • Place canes through holes in tarpaulin and into the ground. • Start teaching!

Any, though exploring the sights and sounds of the outside worked very well for science and creative writing. Safety: Ensure end of each bamboo cane is suitably safety-proofed (with tennis balls).


Outdoor Cafe Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 1 lesson for food an 1 lesson for setting up cafe.

Lessons:

• • • • • • • •

Tables and Chairs Table Cloths Vases with flowers An urn Paper Cups Some soup Some juice Music (optional)

Activity: break/ lunchtime • Prepare soup in cooking class as normal • 4 Pupils set up tables outside in playground/ courtyard • Bring soup and juice to the tables. • Play evocative music akin to a Parisian cafe • Ensure someone is in charge of takings • Clear up and replace chairs

Cooking / an adaptation of the soup cafe held inside Safety: Ensure hot urn is carried out carefully


Trail / Track Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 20 mins Activity: 10 mins build + lesson activity

Lessons:

• • • • • • •

10(+) x Bamboo Canes 10(+) x Tennis Balls 10 flags 10 numbers or letters 1 Class 1 pair Scissors 2 spray cans of paint or similar trail marking devise (this could be mowed into the grass)

• Attach flags and tennis balls to bamboo canes • Plot trail around school grounds using bamboo canes at strategic points • Plan activities relating to the exploration of each flag. • Explore!

Map reading, coordinates, geography, observation. Safety: Ensure end of each bamboo cane is suitably safety-proofed (with tennis balls).


String Stories Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 15 mins Activity: 45 mins

Lessons:

• • • • •

50(+) x Tent Pegs 6 balls of string 1 pair Scissors 6 dictaphones (optional) Up to a dozen creative young minds!

• Pair up pupils and provide each with tent pegs and a ball of string (and a dictaphone if possible) • Ask pupils to plot a route around the grounds using the string and tent-pegs to help tell a story of the journey • Ask children to recount (or play back recordings) of their stories to the class. • Write up stories into adventure books

Creative writing, language Safety: Ensure tent pegs are not used for purposes other than storytelling!


Adventure Playground Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment:

Preparation: n/a

Lessons:

• 1 x Minibus

• Ask an adventure playground if a class can visit for free • Take said class in minibus to adventure playground • Let them play! Observe learning and overcoming fears, teamwork, pupil to pupil support.

Teamworking, overcoming fears, possible physics lessons on forces, gravity etc. The playground has an outdoor over for baking bread if you take dough with you. Contact: Jessica McMillan

jessica.mcmillan@venturecentre.org.uk


Outdoor Music / Dancing Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 5 mins

Lessons:

• • • •

• Plug in and play • Be ready for some serious shape-cutting

Dance, Just for fun, exercise

2 x Outdoor Sockets 1 x Music System 4 x good speakers Music (we asked for a selection of favourites and JLS/ Michael Jackson were very popular)

Tip: We made a deal to play a song all the way through to avoid arguments over people changing the song all the time.


Loose Blocks Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 5 mins Activity: 45 mins

Lessons:

• 50(+) loose waterproof foam blocks

• Get blocks out of storage • Devise any game you like - den / tower building is always popular.

Teamworking, PE, construction, sunbathing Safety: Watch out for twisted ankles


Loose Blocks Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 5 mins Activity: 45 mins

Lessons:

• 50(+) loose waterproof foam blocks

• Make sure every pupil has 4 blocks. • Devise fitness exercises to be practiced / Devise a teamworking game, for example; two teams must get from one side of the playground to the other without touching the ground, and using just four foam blocks.

PE, Fitness, Orienteering, Teamworking and logic. Safety: Watch out for twisted wrists and ankles.


Den Building Create a space for outdoor learning and fun. It’s private, but it’s open too!

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for building:

Preparation: 15 mins Activity: 45 mins

Lessons:

• 1 x Tarpaulin • Some String • Something tall and thin to prop up the roof (e.g broom, bamboo, softwood) • Something to sit on

• String up tarpaulin to trees/ fence/tall thin objects • Build walls, doors and seats with materials available • Hang out in den

Building, teamworking, logic material properties Safety: Ensure walls/roof are secure Tip: Use the back fence/ gym equipment to help support the tarpaulin.


Tresure Hunt

What we need...

Planning...

What for?

Equipment for setting up:

Preparation: 15 mins Activity: 45 mins

Lessons:

• • • •

6 (or more) x clues Arrows to follow (optional) 6 pieces of jigsaw (optional) Treasure (we used sweets and had them as snack)

• Place clues in school grounds/ woods when students are not outside to see what you are doing. • Hide the treasure • Give the first clue to the class and the hunt begins. Optional: Have a treasure map cut up into pieces and place a piece at each clue location to extend the activity.

Teamworking, literacy, story making & telling, logic. Safety: Check the route through the woods in advance for bulky rubbish.


make:good @ Belvue Things we’ve tried and tested 1. Tunnel What worked: It made an exciting change to getting into the classroom. Sitting in the playground it made an elevated ‘perch’ for older students to hang out on. What didn’t work so well: Interest in the tunnel dwindled very quickly and it now only gets used infrequently.

2. Trip to Bunny Park What worked: Loved the exercise equipment and it was great for counting repetitions. Maze was very exciting and having a vantage point to look in and see where everybody was proved useful. What didn’t work so well: When it rained it wasn’t clear where we could shelter. 3. Pathmaking What worked: Building and working together as a group to make a path for a the teacher was very motivating. The soft and squidgy nature of the blocks made them very tactile. We had loads of fun and everybody wanted to use the blocks again. What didn’t work so well: The blocks were not stable enough for everybody to easily walk on. 4. Having a cafe outside #1 What worked: Created a lovely buzz in the playground and people sat down to eat together & chatted. If felt like a more ‘real life’ setting for a cafe. Having table cloths, a menu and sign made it feel grown up and special. What didn’t work so well: Using the stage as a cafe made some students feel we had stolen their space. 5. Leaving a legacy What worked: The physical building and working at full scale was exciting for the students. The immediacy of making something and putting it up in the grounds held appeal. What didn’t work so well: The students weren’t really interested in leaving a physical legacy behind in this way. The students weren’t interested in using the posts once they were installed. 6. Changing our view through drawing What worked: Covering the windows with paper and giving permission for students to draw on them felt a bit naughty therefore everybody wanted to participate. Students felt free to let their imagination run wild. What didn’t work so well: Nothing - it was a great topic starter.


7. Mapping how we use the school What worked: It gave the students an opportunity to take us around their spaces, tell how they use them at the moment and share annecdotes about what happens at playtime and lunchtime. What didn’t work so well: Some of the students found it hard to understand the map and therefore didn’t draw there comments in the appropriate place. 8. Trip to Notting Hill Adventure Playground What worked: The staff were really friendly and wanted to make it easy for Belvue to visit. The students loved going on the equipment and gained confidence in tackling some of the more challenging pieces. Cooking bread there was exciting. What didn’t work so well: We couldn’t get the oven to work but with a bit of instruction we can fix this next time. 9. Temporary den builiding in the grounds What worked: It was a great exercise in teamwork and coming up with ideas together. Making a space was very exciting and it was used in a very sharing way at playtime. The students were content that the space was temporary and took it down before lunch. What didn’t work so well: Some of the fixing and tying was very difficult for the students to do and they got frustrated and gave up. 10. Temporary den building in the woods What worked: Being out in the woods and making our own space felt like a proper adventure. Collecting materials to build with was really fun and the combination of collecting and building meant that everybody could have a task. What didn’t work so well: We made quite a small space meaning it was difficult to fit everybody in; I would make it bigger next time. 11. Testing out making transparent spaces #1 What worked: The flags contained a suitable amount of space for a whole class but were transparent so the lunchtime staff were happy they could see what was going on. The flags made an interesting sound which fascinated some students. What didn’t work so well: The spaces were temporary but in future the canes would need to be fitted more securely. 12.Testing out making transparent spaces #2 What worked: The canes demarked a space but allowed views in. Having two spaces allowed classes to be seperated into smaller groups but staff could still see what was going on. What didn’t work so well: We removed the lower canes at the entrance as students were tripping over them.


make:good @ Belvue Things we’ve tried and tested 13. Dressing up our temporary spaces What worked: The canes gave a frame which could very easily be dressed with fabrics and made the space feel more secluded. The woven walls sparked the imagination and the students imagined we were under water and then drew pictures of the other things they may find under water. What didn’t work so well: This activity would have ideally been one lesson long; in two lessons interest dwindled. 14. Straw bale seating What worked: The straw bales could easily be moved around and clustered into different seating conditions depending on what students wanted. The bales made a simple classroom setting outside very easily. Being able to stand on the bales and jump from one was also popular. What didn’t work so well: The nature of staw bales is that they can be pulled apart so they are a temporary solution. 15. Number trail What worked: It was a fun way of running numeracy sessions. Having a route to follow made for a way of containing a class outside even though they were using the whole playground. What didn’t work so well: The flags dotted around the playground were very tempting to play with at lunchtime. 16. Crossing the playground What worked: The challenge element got everybody engaged and there was a great sense of achievement when they made it across. The students had to work together to acheive the goal. The same activity could easily be made easier/ harder depending upon abilities. What didn’t work so well: We kept having to remind people to take it slowly as the squidgy blocks were too unstable 17. Building blocks What worked: The building blocks were endlessly entertaining and were very easy to graduate to make activities suit a range of abilities. Through the project the blocks were the most consistently requested activity for lunchtime. What didn’t work so well: These blocks are made from recycled foam so aren’t a long term solution to loose parts as they will deteriorate with time. 18. Outdoor disco What worked: Students loved dancing and singing together and the music brought a really positive atmosphere to the playground. What didn’t work so well: Having a cable across the playground caused a trip hazard so an outdoor socket would make this a much easier activity to deliver.


29. Making a weather station What worked: Making something and being allowed to place it outside was engaging for the students. The physical making and having to work together in pairs working well. The students were excited to go back and check if their piece was still there and what had changed about it. What didn’t work so well: This activity would have ideally been one lesson long; in two lessons interest dwindled. 20. Outdoor cafe #2 What worked: Having the cafe on the playground made it feel much more social and part of the other breaktime activities. People sitting together and eating made for a very positive feeling in the playground. The table cloth, menu and sign made it feel like a real cafe. What didn’t work so well: It was quite a lot of work to set up and pack down and ate into lesson 3 a little bit. 21. Collecting and collating found material What worked: Giving each pair a box for collecting material and going to search in the woods made each group feel they had their special ‘job’ to do. Exploring the woods through the different materials which make it up led to new discoveries. What didn’t work so well: Turning this found material into ‘art’ when we got back felt a bit forced and the students were less interested in doing this. 22. Outdoor cooking What worked: Cooking outside was a lasting memory for the students who took part in this activity and they still talked to us about it months later. It felt like a treat to cook something outside and eat it immediately. What didn’t work so well: Nothing it was a great success. 23. Outdoor jigsaw What worked: The challenge of building structures and making the pieces slot together was exciting and students were intrigued by it. What didn’t work so well: Once assembled structures could be easy to topple over in one piece. The foam blocks were a more successful loose part design. 24. Treasure hunt into the woods What worked: The challenge of exploring and looking for different spaces was very postive. The same activity could be made more challenging very easily to suit the class. The students wanted to write their own treasure hunt at the end of the activity. What didn’t work so well: We should have drawn out clues as well as writing them.


make:good @ Belvue Process During January & early February Tom & Catherine spent half a day with each class at Belvue School to explore and observe how the outdoor spaces are currently being used and identify opportunities for how the outdoor spaces can be better used for learning and recreation.

DRAWING

Using windows of the classrooms as a surface to draw on, to imagine what they could to see outside their classrooms rather than what they do see.

TRIPS

Taking groups on study trips to other parks and playgrounds to see what they liked and didn’t like and what would be good to have in the outside areas at Belvue

PROPS

Bringing in props which can be used to build new features in the playground and test out different ways the spaces can be used.


LUNCHTIME & TEACHING STAFF

Meeting with the lunchtime staff to understand their experience of being outside at lunchtime and what they perceive the needs for the outside spaces to be. A staff inset session developing ideas for how learning can be taken outside and what features need to be outside to facilitate this happening.

TESTING 1. TESTING 2. MODELS Building dens and temporary spaces with class groups outside (both in the playground and in the woods) which can then be inhabited for a lesson.

Testing taking features outside such as turning the tuck shop into a cafĂŠ and the playground into a dance floor.

Building a site model of the school so that we can start to build models of ideas and proposals and test out how they work.


make:good @ Belvue Analysis Using the drawings, maps, models and observations collected through our initial sessions we created four diagrams showing the key considerations for future planning of the space from the schools perspective: routes through the space, unutilised space, blind spots & how the lunchtime staff can manage the space. Under-used Spaces The areas of school grounds highlighted are currently used very little or not at all. These spaces could be ideal for interventions to increase outdoor learning potential, and create more ‘private’ spaces for Post 16’s.

Lunchtime Staff As a result of the blind spots, and the necessity for one member of staff to be in charge of the toilet keys, there is very little flexibility in the roles of the lunchtime staff. Safety and monitoring is priority number one, but because of the current layout, this is a fulltime commitment for at least two, normally three of the four staff. The result of this is that staff are unable to spend time initiating or joining in play activities. Staff Member 1: Toilet Key Duty Staff Member 2: Grounds Watch Staff Members 3 & 4: Playground Watch


Flow / Routes Many of the pupils follow the same or similar routes through the grounds every day. Post 16 - route home Dinner Hall to Playground Upper School to Football Cage Natural Drifting to Corners / Hidden areas

Blind Spots Recent Building work, notably the HE Block, Staff Room and Football Cage have dramatically increased the size and number of blind spots in the school grounds. This is an issue particularly for lunchtime staff as it makes monitoring the children a real challenge.


make:good @ Belvue Ideas


1 & 4. Level change & vantage points

6. Loose parts

Our study trips have been revealing in the sense that almost every designated play space we have been to has incorporated level change into its design.

One of the most popular activities during our time with each class and at lunchtimes has been using foam building blocks to build whatever the pupils imaginations fancy. Cars, boats, towers, houses, dens, pathways and rockets have been constructed from no more than 50 foam blocks at little cost. The idea of loose parts seems to mean the pupils do not tire of using the same ‘finished’ pieces in the same way they have with the tunnel, yurt and other installations in the grounds.

This offers an element of intrigue, is visually pleasing, and could be of benefit to lunchtime staff, as they may be able to gain a vantage point from which to survey the grounds better. Vantage points would also be useful for the lunchtime staff to get better views across the space.

2. Tracks/ trails, exercise equipment, swings & slides

A bike/ running track around the school to use some of the utilised spaces and encourage students to exercise in a fun way.

7. Move/ improve (stage & the yurt) 8. Interesting boundaries 9. Access points and entrances

One idea that seems to transcend the age groups in the school is that of an outdoor exercise area or gym. Younger pupils love it and are full of energy, whilst older pupils, particularly the boys, like the idea of working on their biceps and abs to impress the ladies!

3. Outdoor rooms & post 16 area

As the school has now acquired the woods, routes to and from the grounds must be considered. Intrigue and mystery can be created using a range of creative approaches to entrances and gateways. Tower / Vantage Points A permanant outdoor space which can be used for classes, cafe etc. Having areas of the grounds that are visibly separate, however loosely, from other parts could have a positive impact on both lessons and playtime. The post 16 pupils are young adults, and whilst many of them enjoy playing football, most want to hang out, chat and get away from the younger pupils. They enjoy socialising and hanging out like any teenager, and feel that at the moment there is not much provision for this outside.

Again, study trips have confirmed that kids of all ages (us included) love to get to the top of something! Climbing up walkways and ladders, and surveying the scene from the top doesn’t seem to get boring. A good vantage point also offers a wealth of learning opportunities, from maths and science through to map reading.

10. Existing Buildings

There is a large area of grounds that is only really for their use, but currently nothing inspiring in the space for them to use.

5. Contained Spaces

There are several new buildings in prominent positions within the grounds, notably the staff room.

It is important to provide the opportunity for building temporary spaces with a class. Lessons: Spaces that would accommodate a class, and create a screen from other parts of the grounds would help to make an easy transition from classroom to outside learning. Screening would help to contain the class, and avoid distractions. Play: Many pupils enjoy chatting, hanging out, or spending time alone. We have noticed on study trips that spaces need not be shut off, but merely appear private (such as an alcove) to fulfil the needs of the pupils effectively

There is a general feeling amongst the pupils that these buildings have ‘stolen’ their play areas. Decorating their exterior facades in some way would help the pupils to ‘claim them back’.

11. More planting

Every class we worked with had three common themes: 1. More planting & large areas of flowers/ plants. 2. A track/ trail and journey around the school. 3. Vantage points and towers.


Enjoy!

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make_good: an experiment in outdoor learning