Manette Carroll, Forest Schools Teacher - Bielefeld School, Germany
For me the most rewarding part of SEN and outdoor learning is when students see the rewards themselves.
One particular example was when I worked very closely with two students during a pilot to develop outdoor learning. They came bounding up to me in the corridor and screamed that I’d never guess what had just happened. They were right, I’d never have guessed!
Prior to the pilot we ran, the children struggled to access the curriculum and were regularly removed from the classroom due to their behaviour. They were also disliked by their peers. After a ten week programme involving outdoor learning they had both been selected as school council representatives for their classes. Even now it brings a lump to my throat when I think about how far they’ve come.
I got into SEN education, like many primary teachers, through experience in my own classroom and wanted to learn more about how to make education more accessible to all. I had a love of the outdoors and began to research if there were any links about improving the learning of children with challenging behaviour when they were taken outside.
The trial in my school proved so successful that I was able to publish my Masters on my findings and develop training in outdoors SEN education for my cluster of schools.
Being an experienced leader in forest school education led to the opportunity to become a tutor for the ‘Supporting SEN primary pupils in the STEM subjects’ CPD activity, organised by the National STEM Learning Centre and Network.
During the CPD, we covered the theory behind how outdoor learning raises self-esteem and boosts confidence. This is mainly as the children and adults are learning new skills together. Also when in the outdoor environment group sizes tend to be smaller allowing for greater interaction between the pupil and teacher which in turn allows for improvements in pupil teacher relationship.
Participants were given the opportunity to try new skills in the outdoors to support them in the delivery of outdoor learning and time was given to allow for supported planning specific to their school. This CPD will be running again later this year and in my sessions I will cover the theory behind outdoor learning and the practical elements of taking children outdoors.
Previous participants on this course couldn’t get over the sense of achievement and pride when they learnt to use a flint and light an open fire. This reminds us of the sense of achievement children must feel when they achieve something new.