Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Returning to Western Australia

I have now safely returned home to Bunbury in the south west of Western Australia.  Thanks to everyone who has followed my blog, particularly all those who have posted comments. 

I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time and met some fantastic and highly dedicated teachers and outdoor grounds professionals.  Although my posts will now be less frequent, I will now use this blog to follow Withers Primary School’s outdoor grounds development.  This will be the real test of the success of my Churchill Fellowship, practical application of what I have learnt.  I will be presenting my findings to staff at Withers Primary School next Monday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Canals Wales

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Learning Through Landscapes Conference

1 July Learning Through Landscapes Conference Winchester England

This year marked the 20th anniversary of LTL and was celebrated throughout the conference.  A number of presenters from around the globe gave insight into where their country was in relation to school grounds development.

Petter Akerblom, Movium Centre for Urban Environment.  Sweden. petter.akerblom@movium.slu.se
Movium collects and spreads knowledge on urban outdoor environments and has done so since the early 1990’s.  Peter co-ordinates projects, educational activities and reporting.  Grounds development was not just about developing a nice setting but about a holistic approach to learning.  Petter spoke of a resurgence of school gardens as a teaching tool in Sweden.  The government is now committed to education in outdoor environments and is committing 800 000 pounds in an effort to green school grounds.  He spoke of how much is spent on indoor classrooms and how little in the outdoors.  In most instances it is not seen as a resource.   Sweden relies heavily on state funded positions rather than volunteers to develop school grounds.  He reiterated a common theme regarding weather and recounted how in the north on Sweden where in winter it is dark for 4 months of the year, with severe weather, outdoor learning occurs continuously.  The focus on school grounds development is
        Make school grounds more important in the learning process.
        Low Cost
        Involve parents, students staff in the decision making process.

The school grounds should be “A place for learning, an object for learning and a way of learning” His vision is that there are no boundaries between indoor and outdoor learning.

Ko Senda Landscape Architect Environmental Design Institute, Tokyo Japan.

Ko specialises in school grounds design.  Schools in Japan are getting behind the school grounds movement.  90% of all schools have a vegetable garden and pets.  Schools are designed with this in mind.  A great deal of government support is available to promote school grounds development in Japan.  He considers the following concepts vital to successful grounds development.
-                      Space
-                      Flow Line
-                      Design
-                      Environmentally Friendly
-                      Child participation in design and construction
-                      Safety

He spoke of Professor Mitsuru Senda’s Theory of Play Space  having six elements :Play Structure Space, Nature Space, Hide Out Space, Street Space, Anarchy Space and Open Space.  He expanded on this theory as follows.

-                      OPEN SPACE (Playing Field, Outdoor Stage, Seating and Play Area.
-                      STREET SPACE (Walkways on street side of school)
-                      CIRCULATION (Paths that ensure there is no beginning or end to the outdoor area)
-                      NATURE SPACE (Plants, Symbolic Trees, School Farm including vegetables and flowers, pond\stream, small hills, tunnels, domesticated animals)
-                      ANARCHY SPACE (Construction site,
-                      SEATING SPACE (Log bench, space for adults to talk)
-                      CONTINUITY (Indoor and outdoor spaces need to be connected)
-                      HIDE OUT SPACE

Often he wasn’t able to include all elements in the design but the more that were included the more successful the outdoor space would be.

Maranne van Lier Stichting Oase and Sprinzaad, the Netherlands
Maranne spoke of the networks of like minded groups that existed in the Netherlands.  Again the government was behind the greening movement.  He spoke of the large number of public gardens that had been established across the Netherlands.  Children were no longer finding nature and were becoming more and more distant from it.  Maranne said if children don’t find nature anymore then we need to bring nature back to children.  Maranne accepted risk and said it was about communicating this to parents and the community.  A book recommended is Playing Outdoors: Spaces and Places, Risks and Challenge (Debating Play) (Paperback) by Helen Tovey

Helen Tunggal, previously a Principal is currently manager of Learnscapes, an approach incorporating much of the LTS philosophy into a structured approach for implementation of new grounds development projects.   Helen reiterated the importance of planning.  She recommended the following handbook. http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/handbooks/outdoor_learning_spaces2.pdf

Sharon Danks, Bay Tree Design, San Francisco.
Sharon works with schools across California with vibrant playground design.  Her work includes as director of Green School Alliance.

-                      Wildlife Habitats
-                      Student, community and parent participation
-                      Water systems
-                      Energy systems (Demonstration i.e. small wind generator/ solar pump not reducing carbon footprint simply a demonstration)
-                      Biodiversity ….Green
-                      Curriculum connection
-                      Allows active and creative play
-                      Comfort
-                      Beauty
-                      Form Function

Her rule of thumb is to dream big but start small.  Have a 10 year plan and just take on one section each year.  The plan is actually ongoing and as part of sustainability never actually finishes. 

Catherine Andrews, CEO of Learning Through Landscapes
The UK movement with the vision that every child benefits from stimulating outdoor learning and playing.  Catherine spoke extensively about LTL which has been detailed elsewhere in this blog.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Brighton and Hove Heritage and Environmental Festival

30 June 2010
Brighton and Hove Heritage and Environment Festival
Today I attended Brighton and Hove’s Heritage and Environment Festival at Moulsecoomb Primary School.  Over 700 students from 5 different primary schools rotated through 12 activities over 3 days.  Each group of students spending half a day participating in outdoor learning workshops.  Workshops included Forest Schools, Food Partnerships, Fermenting, Story Making, Minibeasts, Creative Willow, SAS bread, Archaeological Dig, Neolithic clothes, museum skeletons, farming and the country side, RSPB making bird feeders, herbs, and house building. 

A real sense of community existed between the various groups who had been brought in to run these sessions.  The emphasis was on nature and the outdoors with a real flavour of history.  Children working with archaeologists actually finding medieval artefacts then building Neolithic shelters with staff from ESAMP (?)  The school was a real hive of activity throughout the day.  The afternoon involved teacher professional development sessions which were an expansion on the morning sessions.   

Having seen the schools outdoor learning environment and then the outdoor camp in Wales, seeing outside organisations being brought in to deliver outdoor learning meshed in well with the school’s whole overall ethos.  Although an annual activity, the festival value added to much of the learning that occurred as an ongoing part of the schools curriculum.

What was enlightening was that the festival was so well supported by professionals who were delighted to be able to get children involved and excited about what interested them.

Teacher Workshops
The afternoon professional development session was spent with Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Neolithic Builders.  The wildlife trust is a charitable organisation which looks after over 30 wildlife areas.  A big part of its summer program is running 10 week Forest School sessions.  Many teachers who are involved with Forest Schools with the Wildlife Trust go on to do the training and run Forest Schools independently of the Wildlife Trust.  Training is 5 days residential followed by a portfolio and written assignments and is usually complete within 12 months.  The Wildlife trust demonstrated swish netting for insects and utilizing mini microscopes to look at what was caught in the net. Children were happily make a myriad of  objects from willow harvested the previous year.  I was given a number of publications from The Woodland Trust including, Hug a Tree, Tree Party, Having Fun With Fungi and Do One Thing For Nature.  All these are published by The Wildlife Trusts,  www.wildlifetrusts.org

I also spoke with Ganesh and Elaine Kings from Creative Willow Structures  www.creativewillow.com who spoke of the endless learning potential with willow. 

Much of the building work was very labour intensive and promoted team work to achieve tasks.  Very simple tasks for example moving a large log requires problem solving, leadership and team work, qualities which give opportunities of less academic students to often shine.  The sessions were well attended from across the district and provided by East Sussex Archaeology and Museum Partnerships www.esamp.com There was a very laid back casualness to the sessions which encouraged networking during sessions.


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