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Rossendale children benefit from outdoor learning

Children from Waterfoot Primary School in Rossendale are enjoying a safe and fun way of learning after their woodland area has been transformed into an outdoor classroom.

The outdoor teaching space was designed and delivered by landscape architects and environmental education specialists Newground. As a social enterprise, any profits they make are donated to the charity Newground Together and distributed in the form of grants to environmental and community projects. The teaching space at Waterfoot Primary is one such project.

Although extensive, the grounds lacked an intimate space to act as an outdoor classroom. Using the existing topography and site features, the new space is functional, fun and practical, complimenting the existing programme of outdoor teaching. The purpose-built outdoor classroom is part of a wider masterplan project to improve the entire wilder space beyond the playgrounds and sports areas.

Kelly Devine, Headteacher at Waterfoot Primary, said: “Our learning goes beyond the four walls of the classroom. Outdoor time often provides the most memorable learning experiences and helps children to make sense of the world around them by putting their learning into a meaningful context.

“Being outdoors has a positive impact on children’s sense of well-being. It offers opportunities for exploring learning in different ways and on different scales to being indoors. It gives children first-hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world and offers them freedom to explore, use their senses and be physically active.

“The whole school already participates in Growth Mindset, which focuses on teaching life skills and facing challenges in a positive way, and we have existing nurture groups for children with issues such as anxiety. Learning in these quiet outdoor spaces can be life changing for these students.”

Mick Smith, Managing Director of Newground, added: “By providing a bespoke outdoor teaching space and access paths, we hope to encourage learning in a new way that will capture the imagination of those children who don’t thrive in a normal classroom setting. 

“In addition to boosting the physical and mental health of the children, it is hoped that the new space will help them develop an appreciation for nature and wildlife including the resident badgers. It will also enable the school to further develop the links they’ve already made with other schools and community groups in the area such as Cribden House School and Lancashire Badger Society.”

The pupils are already making use of the outdoor space. Key stage one pupils recently took part in an outdoor workshop on the Great Fire of London. They learnt how to make a wattle and daub wall using sticks, mud and straw and designed their own bakery for Thomas Farriner using sticks, stones and clay.

Kelly added: “Waterfoot Primary School would like to thank everyone involved, including our PTA who have fundraised to support the project, but especially Newground who have helped make everything possible. Our children and staff are delighted with our new look outdoor learning space and are taking part in national ‘Outdoor Learning Day’ to celebrate the re-launch of the grounds!

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