"The impact has included gains for the most vulnerable pupils. For example-an increase in self-esteem, confidence and engagement with their peers and learning."
St Giles’- CE Primary School in Willenhall has really embraced Nature Friendly Schools. The Senior Leadership team at the school is committed to embedding outdoor learning across the curriculum and increasing pupils’ access to outdoor and natural environments. The links between pupils spending more time learning outdoors and the potential positive impacts on their mental health are well understood.
Simrat Mavi is the deputy headteacher and designated Nature Friendly Schools Lead at St Giles. She is passionate about the natural world and with the support of headteacher, Mark Dakin, has been instrumental in motivating staff to embrace outdoor learning through Nature Friendly Schools.
Key teachers have taken an active role in Nature Friendly Schools; participating in training and organising focus groups of pupils. Children surveyed their grounds and designed improvements aimed at increasing biodiversity. Their ideas were incorporated into a school grounds improvement plan and practical work had just begun when Covid-19 hit.
The pandemic changed many things, but not the school’s enthusiasm for outdoor learning. The next phase of Nature Friendly Schools involved building the skills and confidence of teaching staff to deliver their lessons outside. Adapting to the changing mental health needs brought about by Covid-19, the focus of these lessons turned towards building self-esteem and to fostering communication and cooperation skills in pupils.
A package of team building, orienteering and den building activities linked to the National Curriculum was devised and delivered in the school grounds. Despite the winter weather, pupils had a great time and happily identified what they liked about the sessions.
The positive benefits of taking lessons outside and into green spaces are already being observed by senior managers and school governors are really supportive and have made a significant financial commitment to creating further natural outdoor spaces in the school grounds; the latest being the creation of two wildlife ponds.
The journey towards embedding outdoor learning into the curriculum at St Giles’ CE Primary School is well under way and will continue long after the Nature Friendly Schools project has ended.
Eboni, year 4 pupil
“My favourite part of the lesson was being able to work together with my team to try and win the different challenges. We had to think carefully about what to do, share our ideas and listen to each other well which helped us win.”
Mr Jones, teacher
"This session was another super activity, with the children again working in groups to complete their objectives. I was very pleased again to see the cooperation skills within the groups. Some of the quieter children in the class were able to show their voices in this activity.”
Simrat Mavi, deputy headteacher
“The impact has included gains for the most vulnerable pupils. For example-an increase in self-esteem, confidence and engagement with their peers and learning.”