As pioneering nursery educator, Margaret McMillan, said ‘the best kept classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky’, with outdoor education providing huge benefits to children both inside and outside the classroom.
For parents hoping to find a school which prioritises learning in the great outdoors, SoGlos has teamed up with Rendcomb College in the Cotswolds to unearth 12 of the best outdoor education programmes from UK independent schools.
Surrounded by rolling Cotswold countryside just outside Cirencester, Rendcomb College is an independent day and boarding school that has been educating boys and girls aged three to 18-years-old for 100 years.
Alongside excellent academic results, Rendcomb College benefits from a strong pastoral care system and encourages its pupils to take part in drama, music, sport and outdoor education, which are all considered equally important in the curriculum.
For more information, visit rendcombcollege.org.uk.
Set within 230 acres of Cotswold parkland, which includes a deer park and 172 ancient trees, pupils at Rendcomb College, near Cirencester, benefit from a forest school and dedicated outdoor education area in spectacular surroundings.
Rendcomb College’s Forest School gives younger children the opportunity to explore the natural area, take on unfamiliar challenges and develop lifelong skills in a safe and stimulating environment, while senior pupils can also take part in bushcraft, orienteering and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme.
With its enviable location within a UNESCO World Heritage site, Windermere School in the Lake District has a unique outdoor education programme that’s a compulsory part of the curriculum for pupils in Year 3 to Year 9, with the option to continue into Years 10 and 11.
Every fortnight, students have a full morning or afternoon dedicated to outdoor education, with activities like climbing, caving, kayaking and windsurfing on offer. Sixth Form students have the opportunity to study for a BTEC in Outdoor Adventure. The school also benefits from its own private watersports centre on the shore of Lake Windermere.
Juniors attending the King’s School Gloucester benefit from a range of outdoor activities at its weekly Forest School trips to Crickley Hill Country Park or the Forest of Dean.
King’s School pupils have the freedom to lead their own activities, allowing them to develop their self-confidence, decision making, teamwork skills and imagination. Forest School also supports the curriculum by helping them to work on their physical development, maths and literacy skills, by climbing trees, counting bugs, measuring twigs and using language to describe the environment.
With the Scandinavian concept of ‘friluftsliv’ or ‘free air life’ at its heart, the Forest School as Beeston Hall School in Norfolk has a holistic approach, giving children the chance to develop positive relationships with each other and the world around them.
Activities include making mud slides, dens and fire pits in the woods on campus, to exploring the North Norfolk coastline, all under the supervision of the dedicated Forest School leader.
Providing an inspirational and empowering outdoor education programme for its girls, Cheltenham Ladies’ College offers a range of non-competitive activities for girls in both the Lower and Upper College, including bushcraft, climbing, sailing and trekking.
There’s also an Adventure Club offering more daring activities like windsurfing and mountain biking, the opportunity to earn qualifications such as First Aid and scuba diving, plus excursions to amazing destinations like Borneo, India and Peru.
The impressive outdoor facilities at Great Walstead School in Sussex mean that students of all ages can make the most of its 270 acres of woodland, with a dedicated Forest School and an outdoor classroom.
With the Forest School encompassing everything from woodland walks and nature trails, to camp building, archery, wild cooking and even spending the night under the trees, Great Walstead also takes core subjects like science out of the classroom and into the woods.
Equipped with mud kitchens, pizza ovens, fire pits and even an outdoor classroom, all within a nine-acre on site woodland, children at All Hallows School in Somerset get to develop practical skills while learning about the natural world.
Heading out in all weather, the Forest School cultivates a sense of adventure as children explore the environment and experience seasonal changes first hand.
From hunting for creepy crawlies to growing their own produce, children attending the pre-prep school at St Edward’s School in Cheltenham enjoy a varied outdoor education programme, which includes regular visits to nature reserves, farms and the seaside.
At St Edward’s Forest School, children get to develop their independence and test their boundaries in a safe place, with activities like peeling vegetables, cooking over an open fire and woodwork.
On the edge of the New Forest, Walhampton School students have 100 acres of grounds to explore. Every classroom in pre-prep has easy access to the great outdoors, with weekly Forest School learning come rain or shine.
The specialist Forest School area at Walhampton School includes an outdoor classroom and kitchen garden, providing a stimulating environment for children to explore and develop a love of nature, as well as life skills like resilience and perseverance.
Warminster School has an area of woodland within the Longleat Estate as its dedicated Forest School area, where pupils can enjoy the freedom to play, explore and enjoy a break from electronic devices.
Classes include den building; natural crafts; fires and cooking; and woodland management and nature exploration, all delivered by Forest School qualified teachers, giving children the chance to develop their curiosity, build self-confidence and learn how to assess risks.
The leading all-boys prep school, Aysgarth School in North Yorkshire, offers its pupils a host of outdoor activities, from mountain biking and parkour, to shooting, campcraft and archery.
The co-educational pre-prep school also has a Forest School, led by the EYFS head Anna Brown who has a huge passion for outdoor education.
Wellington College in Berkshire offers its students the chance to try activities like horse riding, mountain biking and canoeing as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, as well as running an Expeditions Society where staff and students plan exciting adventures.
Outdoor activities are also an important part of the regular curriculum, with students walking the length of Hadrian’s wall, recreating Hannibal’s journey through the Alps and scuba-diving in Indonesia with marine biologists to learn about conservation.
For more information, visit rendcombcollege.org.uk.
Tuesday 13 October 2020
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