Ark Tindal Primary Learning Through Nature

Learning through nature in Ark Tindal Primary Academy

 This blog refers to a pilot teacher training delivered by the RSPB offered to Birmingham schools at present.

Wild Challenge free award scheme for schools is also referred to. All schools across the UK can participate. Click here to set up Wild Challenge for your class.

Written by, Shannon Kingston,
Ark Tindal Primary Academy,
Year 1 and Science Lead,

During my time as an Early Years teacher at Ark Tindal Primary Academy, it was often felt that the outdoor space was just an  extension of our classroom. Children had the opportunity to free flow across the indoors and outdoors during exploration and the teachers often capitalised on the outdoor space to make links to their current learning. For example, when learning about the text We’re Going on a Bear Hunt the outdoor area transformed into the settings of our story for us to roleplay together. Additionally, it was a great space to complete some mathematical and scientific enquiries, supporting the foundations of these core subjects.

Since becoming the Science Lead, I found that teachers in KS1 and KS2 were using the outdoors less during lesson time in comparison to EYFS. The outdoor space is often perceived as an uncontrolled environment apart from when it used for physical education, after school clubs or special drop-down days. Teachers regularly expressed concern that lessons would be disruptive due to increases in off task behaviour and therefore the core content of the lesson would not be delivered and so preferred to remain indoors. As our curriculum intent at Ark Tindal is to have pupils leave the school with a relentless curiosity of the world around them, we knew we needed to build confidence and a positive attitude about outdoor learning within our teaching staff. I became excited by the prospects of our Early Years attitude to outdoor learning being shared among our colleagues when taking on this subject leadership role. Particularly, the attitude that there is no such thing as unsuitable weather, just unsuitable clothing to remove that barrier for bringing learning outdoors.

Encouragingly, the School Leadership Team recognised the benefit of using our natural environment to enhance children’s learning and so applied for a Millennium Point Trust Grant to establish a Science Garden within our grounds. After the success of this application, much thought went into the design of the garden space to maximise the opportunity to make links to the National Curriculum for Science such as habitats and life cycles, but also thinking beyond to resourcefulness and renewable energies. As we want our pupils to be conscious about their own impact upon the world, it felt imperative we provided them a space to instil these  values and learning experiences. I have included an example of our aspirational design which helped to highlight what features we wanted to prioritise. For example, we were eager to make a renewable energy shed equipped with a solar panel, wind turbine and even a bike that the children could cycle to produce energy. We also ensured there were habitat spaces for nature’s animals such as a pond, bat boxes and hedgehog homes. However, as the space that was being transformed was overgrown, we then tailored to the natural surroundings that were already established on discovery. As a space, it was often being used by after school clubs or as an opportunity to enhance pupil wellbeing. In order to maximise the benefits of this great addition to Ark Tindal, I applied to become a participant in the Curriculum for Nature training course delivered by RSPB to promote nature connectiveness in Primary Schools.


On the first day of training, I was immediately inspired by the suggested connectedness activities and opportunities to make cross curricular links. I could see the real value the  outdoor classroom could have not only to our scientific learning but beyond. It also highlighted to me the impact of our own attitudes to the outdoor environment would have on our pupils. When asked to complete a simple activity of making a rainbow of colours on a piece of cardboard, it came to my surprise just how much joy I experienced from seeing such a spectrum of colours in nature. It soon became apparent to me how much our children would love participating in such an activity and so we incorportated it as part of our writing unit in Year 1 about poetry in Autumn. The children were given a strip of paper and worked in pairs to find autumnal inspiration that they could stick down to later inspire the poems they would create. Needless to say, the children were enthusiatic to find different natural objects and the activity encouraged a lot of verbal discussions and use of adjectives that could enhance their own writing. Children were also taught in this experience how to care for nature by showing consideration of what objects they would gather from the garden. For example, collecting the leaves that had already fallen to the ground as opposed to pulling them off trees, teaching them how to be responsible citizens for our world.

At this training, I was also signposted to the Wild Challenges initiative being delivered by RSPB learning. The resources available through this initiative made it very accessible for teachers to deliver the challenges and also made clear links to the National Curriculum outcomes. As Ark Tindal were participating in Outdoor Classroom Day, I felt this would be a great time to introduce these challenges to our school. I shared with my colleagues the list of Wild Challenges and encouraged them to select an activity they felt most inspired by so that they can lead by example for their pupils and feel most confident with the delivery. Some opted for activities that linked to their current scientific enquiry and others found the benefit of using the activities for cross curricular learning such as Wild Writing in Year 6. Teachers feedback a  positive response from these activities. For example, a KS2 teacher explained how their wild challenge inspired a group of children to rescue a bee during their break time with sugar water. As the challenges are categorised between experiencing nature and helping nature, having our children participate in many of these challenges will help towards our intent to create well-rounded children at Ark Tindal. So far, we have desinged and shared posters with our community on ways to help animals in our local area, planted and grown our own produce in our after school club and identified some minibeasts and vegetation in our school grounds to name but a few. Ark Tindal will continue to experience and value nature so that they can deeper their understanding of the world around them. There is already a biodiversity action plan underway, and with the help of our eco-council members, Ark Tindal will have plenty opportunities to enjoy and help nature as we move across the seasons.