New Forest Nature Curriculum

by Mary-Ann Ridgeway and the Inwoods Team

Outdoor Adventures

In the first few weeks of October, Pete Flood led two groups of Inwoods Small School students and teachers on an outdoor adventure, exploring fungi and the natural world of the New Forest near Fritham.

It was inspirational to spend a day away from the relatively tame local surroundings of Brockwood and enter a small patch of wilderness, exploring fungi and their habitats together.

There were no laid-out paths to follow, no fences to mark territory, wild ponies loitered curiously nearby while we scrambled over decaying branches, crunched through the autumn leaves, sheltered under the mature trees, snacked sitting on old tree stumps, and best of all, absorbed nature’s mysterious and indescribable quality which is so uplifting and enriching.

Exploring Questions

One could see how energised the children were and how they became so open to listening to ecological facts, exploring a question and generally sensing the vibrant life around them. We all had amazing times, with many finds and interesting food for thought.

To be in touch with nature in this way is an essential part of our educational endeavours. It is essential in helping us understand the world. Through a deeper connection with nature rises a deeper care for all that is living and for all that is life-giving. And only from this place can we really look at our relationships with each other, and see how, with our petty, self-centred concerns, we can destroy one another and this beautiful environment.

Outdoor Play-breaks

To make this connection to nature an integral part of a child’s time at Inwoods, we have a diverse, interdisciplinary Nature Curriculum. This has many elements that are a part of each day such as meeting in the Brockwood carpark and walking to school which includes a quiet-walk; an outdoor circle that emphasises awareness of surroundings and care of the body; seasonal nature tables; long outdoor play-breaks in all weathers; natural materials in use whenever possible; composting and also fresh food from our vegetable gardens. The Nature curriculum includes two walks per term with the whole school together and work parties each term. Our own grounds lend themselves to a connection to nature and include a vegetable garden, many different fields and outdoor classrooms, an outdoor brick oven and a Nature Garden (a wild area emphasizing stewardship and untouched nature with a pond and woodland). The first years children have a Wild Walk each week in which to explore the locality, and begin with simple bush-craft. All the rest of the children have weekly Nature sessions, which cover a wide array of ecology, botany, bush-craft, care of the grounds, gardening, nature-sketching and more. Our intention is to surround the children with an atmosphere that recognizes, appreciates, enjoys and looks after the natural world.