St Mary’s Kindergarten embrace the positives of outdoor learning ‘whatever the weather’ during the pandemic

23 February 2021

Children who attend St Mary’s Kindergarten, Colchester, have been spending significantly more time outside to help reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. This has resulted in increased confidence, independence, concentration and wellbeing for the children and the staff say the new approach to delivering the curriculum will continue long after the pandemic is over.

The Kindergarten is located at St Mary’s Lower School, where there are nine acres of grounds to enjoy, including a Forest School area, multi-sensory play area, outdoor classroom, sports courts and playing fields. Forest School and Outdoor learning has always played an important role in the curriculum at the Kindergarten but during the pandemic, St Mary’s made the decision to deliver even more of the syllabus outdoors.

Story-telling and music lessons now often take place in the outdoor classroom, which has been found to really help the children’s concentration due to the peaceful setting. As well as subjects like PE, lessons such as maths frequently take place outside too, with the children completing activities including finding shapes in the environment or counting natural objects. The Kindergarten Practitioners say the children have been very much inspired by the new ways of teaching.

The Kindergarten has found that spending more time outside has been great for the children’s wellbeing too, which is especially important during these challenging times. In the Forest School area, the children take part in activities such as finding a ‘secret spot’ where they simply listen to the noises in the natural environment around them. These initiatives have had a wonderful calming effect.

All children have a supply of waterproof suits and warm clothing so on any given day they can go outside, whatever the weather. Given the choice, the Kindergarten says the children will always choose to be outside regardless to how cold, wet or cloudy a day it is.

The children have also become more independent as a result of being outside more, with improved dressing and undressing skills and an increased understanding of keeping warm and looking after their own belongings like hats and gloves. Being outdoors for a greater amount of time has meant the children’s awareness of boundaries has been embedded quicker too, with children following safety rules and independently asking adults for support where needed.

Suzy Violett, Kindergarten Manager at St Mary’s, explained “The pandemic forced us to think about how we could continue to offer the high-quality education in a different way. We are very lucky to have access to such extensive grounds and facilities and so we are able to deliver a large part of the curriculum outside.”

“The changes we have made during the pandemic have been so successful we will definitely continue with these initiatives, even when the COVID-19 situation improves. As well as better concentration and improved wellbeing for the children, increased confidence has also been clear to see.” the Kindergarten Manager went on to say.

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