Having my own children and especially working within a school has made me realise that keeping children on task at such a young age can be difficult, it is hard to keep children engaged especially those with a short attention span. Taking lessons outdoors can engage children keeping them motivated. The experience of an outdoor lesson becomes more memorable and at an early age children learn through play.
The Forestry commission have launched a free downloadable Gruffalo Pack for teachers, full of activities based around the popular Julia Donaldson story The Gruffalo. Aimed at Early Years, Foundation stage and Key Stage 1, the activities are designed to be taken outdoors, aiming to encourage children to explore the nature world in the forest. All the activities have been designed to be used outdoors, in your local woods, park or school grounds.
“Following Forestry Commission, England’s research, 83% of teachers said they’d would like to participate in more outdoor learning if it was more accessible. FCE looked at what prohibited teachers from teaching in the woodlands/ forest and how they could overcome these barriers to increase the ability of schools to teach outdoors when they wish to do so. The result, The Gruffalo’s teachers pack”
The Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack aims to teach learners about forests and how they are looked after for the benefits of people and wildlife. It has 4 sections:
1. Introduction: Scene setting
• This section will enable learners to get to know the Gruffalo story, the characters and the forest environment.
2. Programme 1 – Explore and discover the forest
• EYFS – Understanding the world; Mathematics;
• Geography KS1 – geographical vocabulary; geographical skills; place knowledge
3. Programme 2 – Design, make and evaluate
• EYFS – Physical development; Expressive arts & design
• Design & technology KS1 – design, make, build, evaluate
4. Programme 3 – All about animals
• EYFS – Understanding the world; Communication and language
• Science Year 1 – animals, humans, senses
Each section is full of ideas and tips and set out as a lesson plan that you can follow. Each section has a conclusion at the end, what you have investigated and what you have learned about living things. Covering areas of EYFS, curriculum linked. In each programme there are ideas on what you can talk about and also hands on activities. They are easy to follow and full of information, you will also receive the activity sheets to go along with each activity.
The benefits of outdoor learning
- Taking lessons outdoors engages and motivates children
- Makes the learning more real by putting the subject into a context that they can grasp
- Nurtures creativity and the imagination
- The experience becomes more memorable, it becomes a hands on lesson
- All children benefit from the lesson regardless of language, SEN and level of learning
- Aids personal and social development
- Being outside, children become more aware of the environment around them.
- Widens their vocabulary and becomes more confident
- Engages children with a short attention span
After reading the story to children in school and my own children, we took to the outdoors to make a story map of the Gruffalo. We followed the hands on activity from programme 1, to explore and discover the forest. The curriculum links for this part are mathematics and understanding of the world and it covers KS1 geography. We had to find a flat area and by using 4 big sticks make a frame. Using natural materials that were found from within the surroundings, we recreated the map.
The stone is the mouse. Turn left and you reach the Fox’s underground home, go straight up and you come to the Owl’s tree, turn right and then you at the Snake’s logpile house and then comeback down to the Gruffalos cave.
We used twigs that had fallen to the ground, moss from the floor, leaves, bark from the trees and stones.
The children loved running around and working together to create their map. They were engaged and worked as a team, discussing what they should look for and what should represent the items in the story. As they were creating the map they retold the story how they remembered it, becoming familiar with the scenes and the forest around them.
After we had made the map we then went on the look out for any signs of the gruffalo and the other characters.
Learning about the forest and the environment becomes so much easier if you could explore it.
To get your paws on the Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffaloteaching
We was sent a copy of the pack and the book for the purpose of this review.