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School Focus - Outdoor Learning & Forest School

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

Maria Montessori

Outdoor Learning

Our Ethos 
The Dore Primary School outdoor learning programme aims to foster self-esteem, independence, resilience, co-operation, personal responsibility, autonomy and motivation, as well as a deeply personal knowledge, respect and care for our environment. 

Sessions link with our core school values of resilience, resourcefulness, creativity and kindness.

Our approach is learner-led, play-centred, holistic and experiential. When taking part in outdoor learning a participant is engaging with nature in wild spaces in an exploratory, sensory and physical way. We believe it’s important to create, where possible, a long-term relationship between a location and a group of participants - giving all participants a chance to get a feel for how an environment changes over time. 

Participants will be encouraged to take constructive risks in order to develop skills, good judgment and to learn and develop through managing their own and others’ risks. In planning activities we consider not only the risks but also the potential benefits for the learner. 

We believe everybody should have regular, long-term access to a woodland or natural environment which provides them with inspirational and challenging outdoor learning opportunities. Outdoor learning offers a learner-centred approach, where participants can learn through self-directed play and exploration. Participants who attend sessions at Dore Primary School are given the opportunity to develop their curiosity, confidence, self-esteem, creativity, empathy, communication skills, knowledge of the natural environment and ability to assess risk. 

The value of outdoor learning is well recognised at Dore Primary School and is seen as one of the key drivers in the delivery of our exceptional curriculum. Research evidence is overwhelmingly clear about the positive links made between outdoor learning and the progress of children in all aspects of learning and the development of core values.


Learning outside the classroom is highly motivating. Learning in the school grounds, the locality, visiting sites further afield and residential experiences all stimulate interest, curiosity and passion for ‘doing’. These activities broaden young people’s horizons, enable them to develop new skills and build relationships. They make young people more engaged with learning and therefore more likely to do well. At Dore we have specific Forest Skills clubs as well as staff trained to deliver specific activities and opportunities from the Outdoor Education Advisors Panel. We are also supported with our delivery by being a full member of the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) organisation.


Our teachers plan outdoor learning opportunities across the curriculum and utilise our extensive grounds and facilities in order to maximise the impact of these experiences. Our learning continues far past our gates and fences with regular trips offsite beginning in foundation with walks into the local community. Experiences continue throughout the school and further afield across all year groups which both compliment and add great value to the excellent teaching and learning in our classrooms.


"Learning outside the classroom was most successful when it was an integral element of long-term curriculum planning and closely linked to classroom activities." 


Core Values and Outdoor Learning

Outdoor learning at Dore Primary School allows us the opportunity to develop our Core Values of Resilience, Kindness, Resourcefulness and Creativity. So many of our activities, trips and residentials naturally lend themselves to social and personal growth as outlined below:


In 2015, Ofsted announced that the new common inspection framework would include a judgement on ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’. Learning outside the classroom can offer significant support to schools’ delivery of this area of the framework.

Attitudes and values

Talking about an object in a museum, or visiting a place of worship can give insight into issues, other cultures or periods of history.

Creating your own work of art can give rise to explorations and understandings about the world and our place in it.

A visit to a farm can stimulate debate about animal husbandry and food production, and provide a context for designing a Fairtrade enterprise.

Adventure education can provide opportunities to show different skills, such as leadership or teamwork.

Seeing a play on the stage can bring a text alive and stimulate conversations about the values and actions of the characters.

A residential can provide a different setting for conversations about what we believe and what we think is important.


"When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development." 


Resilient Tree Planters
Thanks to those children from year 4 and 5 who overcame arctic conditions in their efforts to plant more trees in Sheffield. Two groups made the expedition on Wednesday to Whirlow Playing Fields where we were met by the Sheffield Ranger Service and members of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust. The children worked together to plant a variety of native trees that they and the community will be able to enjoy in years to come. 

Forest School
We have further embedded our commitment to outdoor learning by developing the Forest School approach to learning, firstly in Y4 and Y5, then across the whole-school. Three members of staff have undergone Level 3 Forest School Practitioner training, and back in school have shared their expertise with other staff members.

Our activities depend on the ability and experience of participants. Examples of Forest School activities include:

• Woodland management and nature exploration
• Building dens and other structures
• Fires and cooking
• Games and invitations for imaginative play
• Natural crafts
• Using tools, such as knives and saws
• Scavenger hunts and adventure
• Seasonal celebrations

Y4 and Y5 Forest School Programme 2017-18
All children in Y4 and Y5 have experienced a block of Forest School sessions this year.  Activities included making wooden jewellery, fire-lighting, shelter making, outdoor art, lashings and using tools such as bowsaws and loppers.

As you can see from the photos below, different groups had very different weather experiences, but all developed skills and knowledge, as well as increasing their resilience, resourcefulness, creativity and kindness.