Friday, 1 November 2013

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

This Halloween I joined some zombies, witches, clowns and various other fantastic characters at my son's school to help with an afternoon of outdoor learning. A lady from the Woodlands Community Garden came along with some materials to make a start on creating some growing areas. She brought pallets and plastic bottles which will become vertical planters. After a brief explanation of what they were to do and warnings about splinters and nails in the pallets the children were split up into four groups of eight.

One group prepared the plastic bottles, one group sanded and painted pallets, one group played nature bingo with another parent helper and the final group came into the garden with me to play a bird identification game. Laminated pictures of birds had been hung around the school gardens with the name of the bird written underneath and each child was given a photocopied sheet of all the images. They had to find the corresponding bird image and write the name on their sheet. There were a couple of light rain showers but the children didn't mind, they were too busy dashing around in all directions having a great time. When they had found all the cards we met up and had a chat about native British birds which are now endangered such as the cuckoo and nightingale and what we can do to help birds through the winter months. The children were so excited to tell me all sorts of weird and wonderful bird related tales. 

In Scotland the school system already favours outdoor learning and in Glasgow there are many local organisations with qualified garden support workers, rangers and nature volunteers to help schools with their projects. At my son's previous school in England I was single handedly introducing outdoor learning activities and hoped that some of the teachers would take an interest. The head was really keen to develop this side of education but without local education support there was no need to do it and it would have been a big effort for teachers to try and include it in their already hectic timetables. So I worked with a few children at a time who were allowed to come out of class, did some lunchtime sessions and generally looked after the gardens. I applied for £10,000 lottery funding to develop some woodland in the grounds and to fund garden activities and was delighted to hear the school had been awarded the money. It should help considerably.

I was sad to leave behind the children in Hastings and all the work I had started so it's been great to start helping at my son's new school in Glasgow. It was a nice change to have everything already prepared for me and I look forward to seeing the ongoing projects develop and the children learn new skills. It's great to work in a team. My son brought his first friend home after school, a Portuguese boy who also started in August and who had no English at all. We did a fun craft activity making leaf monsters. I had pressed some autumn leaves I'd collected between tissue in a big heavy book and they stuck them down then added monster faces, arms and other decorations. I hope you had a fun Halloween too.