Experience: Setting up a School Outdoor and Adventure Week

The Ryde School, Hertfordshire started its Outdoor and Adventure week (OAA week) in 2012. Over the following nine years the OAA week has evolved alongside the developing Forest School programme delivered as part of our Creative Curriculum. The OAA week has become eagerly anticipated by the pupils and is an established annual event in the school year.

The following is a short summary of some of the teaching and learning that can be
incorporated into an OAA week/ days.

During the week all classes in the school participate in both a den building and campfire cooking session, as well as a range of outdoor learning activities planned by the class teachers covering a range of curriculum subjects. Time is taken to listen to the children’s suggestions for potential activities as well through pupil voice, as their input is an integral part of the planning of the week.

A former pupil, who is now a local Scout Leader, returns each year as a volunteer to support the Forest School leader and staff during the campfire cooking sessions. The recipes used have become more ambitious and varied over the years and this year included bannock, calzone, fruit kebabs, baked bananas as well as toasting marshmallows and making popcorn.

Full use is made of the varied settings in the school grounds using the stage for storytelling
and drama activities, our ‘Wild Area’ for mini beast hunts, the diversity of plants, trees and shrubs on the school site also enable the pupils to practice their identification of flora, as well as use of plants for creative purposes.

The Year 6 pupils linked their learning of the Tudors with creating posies using a range of herbs grown in the school grounds, harvested willow from the willow tunnel were used by KS2to create dream catchers and for EYFS and KS1 classes to make bubble blowers.

Earlier in the year the older KS2 pupils developed a simple ‘orienteering game’ for the EYFS and KS1 classes to use during the week, using photos of different locations outside and KS2 classes practiced compass skills during their orienteering games within the school grounds.

In addition, each class has the opportunity to develop skills in the use of a range of simple tools, with progression over each year group. For example, Nursery children learn how to use a hammer in Hapa Zome Art, this develops to using hammer and nails in Reception Class. 

Palm drills are used by Year 3 to create a hole in a wood slice to create a ‘woodland medallion’, this year they decorated them with a name of the Celtic Tribe which linked to their History focus. Year 4 classes get to learn whittling skills using peelers to create ‘woodland wands’ and the older KS2 children get to learn how to use a fire steel safely.

Having tents/tepees in regular use during Forest School sessions throughout the year, allows the children to be trusted to use them independently and safely during OAA week.

In previous years, external visitors have been invited to the school during the week for example a visit by a member of the local bat rescue charity, to speak with Year 1 and 2 classes has provided a memorable experience supporting Science topics about animals and habitats.

This year as a follow up to a talk earlier in the term about her adventures kayaking in the
Scottish Islands, one of our Forest School volunteers bought in her kayak and Greenland kayak balance board for the Reception class to try out. 

To encourage and inspire other schools to have a go at providing this kind of OAA week, we have invited other teachers in the local area to come and visit and talk about what we do and see in practice. We have shared planning and activity ideas for another school to start their own 3 day OAA event.

If this short article has inspired you to consider developing this provision at your setting and you want to talk through more please do get in touch with us.

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