Outdoor Learning at Thames
Learning need not take place solely within educational buildings. Outdoor time often provides the most memorable learning experiences and helps children to make sense of the world around them by putting their learning into a meaningful context.
As the concepts of outdoor learning are becoming more widely accepted and applied to a UK audience, there is an increasing need for quality and safety to sit hand in hand. Archimedes as a leading qualifications development centre and training organisation has had increased requests for ideas and a framework through which children, practitioners and the specific environment of beaches and shorelines can be safeguarded.
Here at Thames we are lucky to have miles of Blackpool and Fylde coastline right on our doorstep. This coastline is an amazing resource and provides a wealth of learning and development benefits for children. In 2016 Thames became the first Beach School in the Blackpool South locality. Having our own dedicated Beach School Teacher has enabled our children to experience at least one Beach School Session each term and provided them with a wide variety of experiences without the confines of the classroom.
Beach Schools are a way of giving children the opportunity to learn and develop in a natural environment, sparking their intrinsic motivations to explore, create and be curious about the world around them. Beach Schools provide an opportunity for holistic development for young children, giving them good foundations for the rest of their life. Children are able to run free on the beach, explore their local environment and habitats, build dens and shelters, light fires to toast marshmallows, draw and create in the sand, while developing a love of the outdoors, building self-confidence and self-esteem, teamwork and problem solving skills. Children who struggle with the confines of the classroom and its rigid structure thrive in the Beach School sessions as the freedom of the outdoors allows them to be themselves.
Beach School sessions adopt a risk safety analysis which ensures that all adults have a thorough knowledge of the local environment and any potential risks or hazards there may be. Children are able to take safe risks without the worry of harm and without adult intervention. This enables children to direct their own learning down the path they wish to follow allowing for discovery, awe and wonder.
Beaches have always attracted a large number of individuals from a range of social and economic backgrounds to utlilise for a as many needs and requirements as those using them. Uses range from pleasure and leisure, to recreation, sport, education and other creative employment sectors.
Increasingly, as the educational markets are becoming more creative in utilising the outdoors as a classroom and we as a nation are becoming more aware of the hidden potential of the outdoors and progressively more comfortable with their destination for their children whilst in formative education or pre-school settings, demand is higher than it has been for 60 years in the UK. For those who have easy access to the 11,000 miles of shores that surround the British Isles, it is not surprising that these are becoming an inspirational learning environment and parents and carers as well as educators are seeing and experiencing very positive impacts on their children.