Outdoor Learning at The Holmewood School

25th April 2017

Author: Naj D’Silva, Senior Teacher at THSL and Founder of Footprints Life Camp

Outdoor learning has become a significant part of the curriculum at The Holmewood School in London, United Kingdom, since we opened in 2010.

We aim to create a bespoke approach using outdoor learning as a vehicle for social and emotional development for our students. Outdoor learning has proved to be an excellent tool to re-engage and build self-esteem and social skills for our young people on the autistic spectrum.

Results from an extended case study in 2014 revealed outdoor learning was extremely beneficial with 87% of students stating they could do more work outdoors and felt less angry and much happier overall.

Our outdoor learning program includes a range of activities from ice skating to climbing and kayaking as well as residential trips. In 2015 we became an accredited level 3 forest school and yet more outdoor learning opportunities opened up. Forest school has a particular emphasis on the importance of play which is essential for the successful acquisition of key social skills which our students find particularly difficult. All staff have also had training in forest school and have an excellent understanding of the benefits to our students.

We deliver whole school Outdoor Classroom Days at a local farm where students take part in outdoor learning activities such as painting, chopping wood and animal care. We also run a morning wellbeing program where students choose between running, yoga, meditation or reading to ensure a positive and healthy start to the day. The results have been a calmer start to each day which in turn enhances teaching and learning.

In 2017, The Holmewood School became an official partner of Footprints Life Camp, a not for profit social enterprise running specialised camps for young people on the autistic spectrum. Footprints combines outdoor education, farming and life-skills to reduce social exclusion and increase independence. A study showed 100% of young people and parents believed Footprints Life Camp increased self-esteem, independence and social skills.

Footprints Life Camp at The Holmewood School won the NAS Autism Professionals Award for ‘Most Creative Community Project’.  It’s a real achievement and we are very proud.  One of aims at the moment is to now offer paid internships to our 6th form students working outdoors at the Life Camp over school holidays and mentoring younger students.

Over the last 6 years our vision of how we can successfully support social and emotional development through outdoor learning and forest school has grown significantly and both are now an intrinsic part of our curriculum with clear benefits for our students.

You can find The Holmewood School on Twitter on @HolmewoodSchool to follow their journey.

One thought on "Outdoor Learning at The Holmewood School"

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