Pupils from a Stockport based primary school have become the first school group to try out a brand new pilot programme of outdoor learning, launched by the team behind The Sill.
38 year five pupils, from Norris Bank Primary School, took part in The Sill's first school 'rivers' discovery day hosted at Walltown Recreational Site, by Northumberland National Park Authority. In order to experience a wide range of curriculum based outdoor activities, the pupils were engaged in everything from pond dipping to discovering mini-beasts; exploration of river side habitats and orienteering, to uncovering the legends and mysteries of fascinating Thirlwall Castle.
The launch of The Sill's pilot outdoor school programme comes at a time when children are said to be living an increasingly inactive lifestyle and teaching young people to enjoy the great outdoors and engage with the natural world is a fundamental part of The Sill's offer. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) development phase of the initiative, Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales) are trialling a wide range of activities with schools and education establishments and feedback from teachers on the types of activities they would like to see facilitated at the building will help to shape plans as the project moves forward.
Georgia Villalobos, Learning and Participation Coordinator at The Sill, said: "With its abundance of wildlife, incredible natural landscapes and rich habitats, Northumberland National Park is a living classroom like no other. We were delighted to welcome Norris Bank School to take part in our very first pilot workshop; it was great to see the pupils having fun and enjoying the experiences on offer.
"There's been a lot talked about in recent weeks about children living an increasingly inactive lifestyle and spending lots of time indoors, and we know from experience that there's a strong connection between being active and being happy. So much of learning is conducted inside the classroom but it really is so important that children experience learning in the outdoors from an early age. Our programme is being designed to meet the needs of the curriculum whilst at the same time, providing inspirational and innovative learning experiences.
"Nothing can match the hands-on experience of being in the countryside and discovering your first mini-beasts or frog spawn in a pond; learning about the history of a region as you're stood in the ruins of one of its castles and taking part in an exciting outdoor treasure hunt. As we take our programme forward, we hope to work with a wide range of partners to support the highest quality and most innovative range of fieldwork opportunities for young people."
Mrs. Pam Koutsouvelis, year five teacher at Norris Bank, said: "We could not have asked for a better range of activities. The whole day was very well organised and child friendly – a delightful, fascinating and exciting experience. The children particularly enjoyed the pond dipping and were absolutely enthralled."