The Outdoor Classroom
'The best classroom is the one with only the sky for a ceiling'
Practical hands-on teaching has always been a feature of the Steiner curriculum, and this school in particular is renowned for developing the use of its grounds and other resources to an exemplary degree.
The grounds are a rich and inspiring learning resource for the whole school, including: building Roman roads in the vegetable garden; building the kiln and then making charcoal for drawing, planning, sowing, caring for and; harvesting biodynamically grown vegetables; weighing them and working out the maths (without a calculator), making a closely observed study of a plant in its own habitat; feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs; and baking pizzas and apple crumble in the outdoor kitchen, in its wood-fired clay ovens.
“The outdoor environment is outstanding and promotes the pupils’ personal and physical development extremely well.
The extensive grounds provide pupils with a rich opportunity for developing an appreciation of horticultural skills and an appreciation of high quality and nutritious foods through well organised activities. Provision for gardening is outstanding.
Because of the special nature of their surroundings, pupils learn to be sensitive to their environment and to be physically adventurous, in climbing and balancing. They are particularly aware of the importance of the environment, coming to understand how to build and to grow food in a way that minimises the use of artificial resources and energy.” School Inspection Service, schoolinspectionservice.co.uk
“It’s truly amazing how much the school gardens have developed since I left school in 2000. I have been working in the garden in recent weeks building a stone spiral as part of the new perennial garden project. It was great to be working there, while children of all ages went about their tasks so willingly. It took me back to being around 12 years old and a clear memory of Jack Connabear, who used to farm the land around the school, teaching a few of us stone facing. In 1980 Jack had set up the Devon Rural Skills Trust (DRST) to preserve ancient skills such as dry stone walling, stone facing and hedge laying. After school and university I went on to become a trainee with the DRST. Now, here I was back in the school garden teaching one of the DRST’s current trainees, the mother of a girl in class 8!
And would you believe it? That very day Class 8 students were rendering the cob tool shed they had built in Class 3. They had made the lime render from quicklime which they made from limestone in a kiln in Class 7. Much of the stone we were using for the wall was limestone and I could hear André discussing the lime cycle with the class as they worked.
It is a real privilege to continue to be a small part of what is happening in that giant outdoor classroom. It’s inspiring to see how the children learn about the processes in nature in such a hands on way and not merely as a set of abstract facts.”
Jeremy Weiss, Velwell Orchard and Devon Rural Skills Trust