We recently took part in specialist SEND forest school training, and have been really delighted by the changes it has enabled us to make. The training allowed our staff team to collectively focus on the experiences we offer within our outdoor environment and where these could be improved, with a specific focus on our children and their needs. We used an audit tool to evaluate our outdoor environment both from the child’s perspective and the practitioner’s, identifying our thoughts and feelings about it, what was in it and how we could utilise this further. The audit tool provides a way of regularly looking at the outdoor provision, and reflecting on how it is used, with a view to consistently enhancing to environment with the children’s needs and interests in mind.
We created an action plan which prioritised the changes we would make and highlighted the need to include more ‘natural’ greenery in the garden to break up the views of hard concrete and man-made materials and structures in the immediate surrounding area. We also considered how we could make learning opportunities more accessible to all children especially as we enter wetter and more challenging weather conditions. The last priority area of focus was to incorporate more zoned areas with clear learning opportunities to better reflect the EYFS and our indoor environment.
We will certainly be regularly reviewing the outdoor environment and how it enriches the children’s learning and using our audit tool to ensure that we are always meeting the needs of our cohort of children.
Here are some images showing the improvement we have made:
We focused on enhancing a mixture of the resources and zones available within the garden, and how these could be effectively stored and rotated in line with our indoor environment. Our planning and delivery of outdoor learning opportunities now more effectively mirrors our indoor environment by ensuring there’s targeted resources and learning opportunities for each area of the EYFS.
We have used this training to inform changes to the garden and we have found it beneficial naming particular staff as our outdoor lead practitioners. This makes it clear who staff can discuss ideas with and more effectively collates and implements the wishes of the whole team. We have enjoyed this opportunity to reflect on our provision and by starting these changes we have begun a continuous cycle of reflecting on what is working well, what is not, and how we could improve or enhance this to provide the best provision possible.