Our vast and purpose built outdoor area is named ‘Cultivating Futures.’ It was designed and created by our pupils and staff in conjunction with an educational outdoor learning architect in 2013.
We received £50,000 from the National Lottery ‘People’s Millions,’ following public vote, to fund the development of this area. Connor Downs is in an area of rural and coastal deprivation and as such, some children come to school with complex social, emotional and behavioural issues. This range of learning spaces includes an outdoor learning classroom, a poly-tunnel, raised beds, a huge pond and a large living area for our rescue rabbits and chickens. These areas are used to develop all children’s personal learning and thinking skills and to enrich the curriculum in line with local priorities, from Year 1 to Year 6.
We have a designated specialist outdoor learning teacher and a learning support assistant who lead daily lessons to educate children in animal care and welfare, gardening, food to fork, food technology and environmental science. Children supported by pupil premium funding and other vulnerable children have additional access to the staff and facilities in a highly personalised programme of pastoral and educational activities. This area is also used for social skills and nurture groups over lunch breaks and after school.
Our Reception children enjoy weekly “Welly Wednesdays’ in the Cultivating Futures areas. The outdoor learning leader and Reception teaching assistants develop children’s knowledge and understanding of outdoors through bespoke activities that enrich the EYFS curriculum. For example, children might make ad toast marshmallows on an open fire, develop skills in classifying insects and plants, pond dip, plant and grow vegetables, monitor the growth and health of our tadpoles as they develop into frogs and clean, feed and groom the animals we care for. They also begin to use practical methods of recording their observations in a very ‘hands on’ approach, such as using classification ‘hoops’ for venn diagrams.
We have used Cultivating Futures to develop creative approaches to the enrichment of the National Curriculum through the addition of adding bespoke, learning activities from the International Primary Curriculum. We believe this is an inspirational way to especially enhance the subjects of geography and science. We are aware that in Cornwall we have a shortage of young people applying for future study in engineering and science based subjects. Each week every class, from Year 1 to Year 6 works with our outdoor learning leader to focus on an area of scientific and geographical enrichment such as learning about climate and climate change, habitats, fair trade etc.… An international link is woven into every study unit. For example, when children study the theme of ‘fair trade’ they find out how chocolate is produced discovering about the required conditions for growth and they conduct a global study into the countries that produce it. The also enter a range of persuasion and debate activities regarding global challenges such as fair trade, financial inequality, global warming, destruction of the rainforests etc. This helps them to prepare for future study, at secondary and further education, in environmental science, an area that does not have such high profile in the science national curriculum.
For more information please click here for our Cultivating Futures page.