Learning Outside the Classroom

At Thorpe Hesley, we know that children need time outdoors and that this brings so many benefits to their health, wellbeing, development and learning. We seek to provide high-quality learning whether indoors or outdoors.

We have some fabulous outdoor spaces at Thorpe Hesley Primary so we have lots of choice for learning beyond the classroom, from the woodland we have broiht into use at the bottom of the junior field or the rich outdoor learning spaces for Reception and Nursery, to the new wildflower beds in the infant garden, the long and beautiful hedgerows by the Junior field and the planting bed and fruit trees of the Quad. 

In the past year we have started Bucket Learning, taking our buckets with us to carry our equipment or collect items and also to use as seats, so that we can literally take our classroom outside. 

We are so lucky to have our very own woodland at the bottom of our school field which has been brought back into use in the last two years. It is our own slice of heaven – “It’s like having a school trip without the coaches!” year 4 child.

Our Approach

We aim to provide outdoor learning as part of our every-day life at school rather than as an occasional ‘added extra’.

Outdoor learning is important for so many reasons. The greatest of these are that outdoor learning and play:

  • Provide an engaging and active approach to learning in our creative curriculum
  • Promote children’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing
  • Support problem solving and resilience amongst our learners
  • Link children more strongly to their environment and the natural world
  • Combat the reduced amounts of access to active outdoor experiences that some of our children have in their wider lives

Our approach is to engage children’s hearts, minds, learning, creativity, sense of fun and well-being through the outdoors, encouraging and supporting teachers to offer more and more learning opportunities out in nature. It is less of a forest school approach and more of a linking between our learning and being outdoors, making connections wherever possible with our environment.

With this in mind, we do not have a progression document for outdoor learning. This is because it is not a subject in itself, but rather a tool through which to engage children in creative, quality learning.

English, reading and spelling outside the classroom

We often use our outdoor spaces as a hook for English projects whether it is descriptions of the woodland itself, being marooned on a desert island, Stick Man, Bog Baby or the mystery of the destructive Viking in our Quad. Our children always respond with such imagination and excitement when writing projects originate outside!

Many classes also use our outside space for spelling practise on a Friday morning – chalking on the walls or playground, using water and paint brushes or creating words from found materials in the woodland.

What can be more relaxing than story time surrounded by bird song? Story time in the woodland is very popular!

Geography and history outside the classroom

We often use our school grounds to support geography and history learning. Whether it is mapping and use of compasses or imagining Viking invasions, it is often better outside!

Our School Woodland

We are so lucky to have our own woodland at the bottom of the school field which provides a rich learning environment as well as a haven of peace and bird song. Until 2021 it was an unused area, an impenetrable sea of brambles which we cut paths into during Lockdown. We welcomed the children back to school in March 2021 with den-making and bulb planting activities and our new approach to Learning Outside the Classroom was born. 

Since then, we have cut more paths, created a clearing, den making spaces, seating and weaving stands. Classes across school use it as part of their curriculum learning on a regular basis. 

Useful Links and Resources

Here are our policies related to teaching outside the classroom.

Policies and Information


The Woodpeckers

The Woodpeckers are 12 super young people who help to look after our fabulous woodland. All from Year 6, they have planned some key areas for development in the woodland including new seating, planting areas, a bird watching area and trails. They meet every Wednesday lunchtime and have so far created some lovely woodland signs, new seating, weeded the raised beds and made woodland art.

The Quad Squad

The Quad Squad is an after school club (during terms Autumn 1 and Spring 2) involving fifteen KS2 children who undertake projects to improve the learning environment in the Quad in the Junior Building. They have done much to keep the Quad tidy, have weeded and planted the raised bed and are currently creating Twitcher’s Corner. This is a bird hide in the Junior corridor which overlooks a small wooded area in the Quad with bird feeding stations. Some of the members of the Quad Squad using woodworking skills to create a bird table whilst others are reseaching and creating bird information resources for Twitcher’s Corner. What a bunch of superstars!

Nature Club

Nature Club is a weekly club which takes place during Friday Golden Time. The children are involved in nature activities and art projects in the woodland. It is a fantastic way to finish the week and get the weekend off to a good start!

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