Outdoor Learning

Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime. Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. We are basing our policy for outdoor learning on the Scottish Government document for Scotland’s Play Strategy. Here is our own Smithton Outdoor Learning Area April 2020_
Learning outdoors can be enjoyable, creative, challenging and adventurous and helps children and young people learn by experience and grow as confident and responsible citizens who value and appreciate the spectacular landscapes, natural heritage and culture of Scotland.  Below you will find some examples of some of our pupils’ outdoor experiences:


During the school closure due to COVID-19, our Outdoor Explorers set up a digital after school club website that has proved to be extremely popular   You can access it here:



w/b 16th Sept- Place value/ months of the year

This week in outdoor learning we practised number placement.  The children were given bundles of ten of straws, sticks or pens and then asked how many more sticks, pens or straws would be needed to make numbers of to 20.

The children were then asked to make up their own bundles of 10 using leaves from the trees.  They were asked not to mix their leaves and had to make sure that bundle of 10 they made contained the same leaves type. So as well as counting and threading, they started to show an interest in the different trees that grow in the Outdoor Learning Area.

The bundles of 10 leaves were then taken as a gift to their Teacher Mrs T, who was delighted to receive a child made learning resource made from natural materials.

We took part in a number of activities that helped us recognise and remember the months of the year.  All the children were asked to tell the rest of the group, the month of their birthday and were then given their birthday month stone to hold.

We then played some months of the year circle games, so as well as the learning there was lots of running around, chasing and fun.

w/b 2nd Sept – Numbers/ days of the week

This week the children have been doing a variety of activities in the outdoor learning area putting numbers and days of the week in order.  This has involved team work, cooperation and a whole lot of fun.

w/b 21st May – Reinforcing coin recognition and adding them together

This week the P1 maths groups were asked to work in pairs and were set the task of collecting plastic eggs filled with a number of coins.

The children then had to work out how much money was in each egg and show this by collecting the correct amount of fir cones to represent the number of pennies collected.

w/b 14th May – Currency familiarisation

This week the children worked in the playground doing tasks that would encourage them to familiarise themselves with money.

The children were asked to work in groups to identify and collect a variety of coins that were hidden in different parts of the play area.

Once all the coins were collected, the children were asked to add them up and work out how much money they had collected.

w/b 30th April – Ordinal numbers

Placing from 1st to 10th.

This week we looked at placing from 1st to 10th and the children had to race and complete a number challenge using the numicon buckets. On the count of three, the children were off, taking it in turns to collect the numbers 1 to 10 from the buckets.

There was real sense of competition as the children had to use their bodies and brains to accomplish the task.  Medals were handed out from 1st to 10th as the children finished putting the numbers they had collected in the correct order.

w/b 23rd April – Weights and Measures

This week the P1 classes were exploring weights and measures.  The children worked in pairs collecting loose materials to make their own set of scales. They were then challenged to try to make their scales balance by adding materials of equal weight on each end.

They discovered that some sets of scales that were made worked really well and some were not so successful.  There was a real sense of achievement when by experimenting with different materials and scale designs, a balance was achieved.

w/b 16th April – Shapes

This week the P1s were learning about shapes.  The children were asked to explore the Outdoor Learning Area and collect items to make up different shapes.  Pots and pans were collected to make up a table of circle shapes and we then used sticks to make up a table for triangles and a table for squares and rectangles. The children had to really think about how many sticks they needed to collect for each shape and how to put these together to create the correct shape.  By the end of the lesson we had some really interesting shape tables to have a look at and explore.

w/b 26th March – Easter Egg challenge

This week as it was the run up to our Easter holidays, we organised an Easter egg number challenge for the P1s.  The children were divided up into four teams and firstly had to take turns collecting their team colour Easter egg which was hanging off the trees.  After lots of running around all six eggs were collected and they had to be put into a number pattern order from one to six. This gave the teams the key for the next part of the competition where they were given a big egg with a number challenge inside.  The children had to find number and pattern stones to make up the number they had found in the egg in as many different ways as possible.  It was great to see lots of team work and problem solving going on.

w/b 12th March –  Time

This week in P1 outdoor learning we were looking at time.  Using chalk and hoops the children made up their own clocks.  A stick was found to make the big (minute) hand and fir cones were used to make the little (hour) hand. The children practised making up different times. We finished the session with a version of the ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ game.  This helped the children practise the words and numbers used when telling the time, as well as being active and fun.

w/b 5th March –  Constructing/ recognising numbers

This week in outdoor maths, groups looked at either constructing or recognising numbers.  Some groups explored how to build numbers over 10.  They were given a precious coloured stone to represent 10 and used sticks to represent the ‘ones’.

The children used a precious stone and 5 sticks to build up the number 15 and then compared how this would look like when written down by using a white board.

Finally, we invited a small group of P3s to help a P1 group play an outdoor bingo game.  The children had to run around the outdoor area finding numbered items hidden in our numicon buckets.  Once found, the children had to rush back to their bingo board and match up the number.  The first child to fill in all the numbers was the winner.

Five week citizenship course for P4s to P7s.

P4 to P7 children taking part in the five week citizenship group course are able to experience a variety of outdoor activities that are connected to their classroom learning.  In week 1, the children take part in some team building activities, helping them get to know their P7 team leaders and team members for the next five weeks.

Week 2 is literacy week, where the children create story stones and work together in their groups to make up a story and create an outdoor story setting that would be suitable for younger children in the school to enjoy.

Week 3 is arts and crafts week.  This year inspiration has been taken from the work of Trevor Leat, a Scottish sculptor who works with willow.  Everyone is given the chance to explore willow as they make a willow dream catcher.  Natural materials found in the outdoor learning area are weaved into the dream catchers and some children choose to insert a card with a message to a loved one.

Week 4 is music week and before going outside the children are shown a range of music made by people using their voice or natural, found materials. This includes traditional tribal music, beat box and street performers.    The children work together in their groups to create their own musical performances with an emphasis being put on developing a strong beat that is taken up by all the team.

Week 5 marks the end of course celebration,certificate completion and course review.  The children are given the chance to help make a fire and roast marshmallows. It is during this time that they are given time to reflect over the outdoor learning citizenship group experiences and give feedback on what they have enjoyed about the course and what could be done to improve the overall experience.  This feedback is taken into consideration by staff planning future activities.

Searching for sums – w/b 26th Feb

Here is an example of the work we did this week, using numicon, fir cones  and number and plus stones.

This week the P1s were on a mission to collect up all the components that make up a sum.  The children collected numicon shapes,  ‘plus’ stones and ‘equals’ stones, that had been spread in different places all over the Outdoor Learning Area. Once the sum had been made up in the correct sequence, the children chose the correct amount of fir cones to provide the answer.

w/b 5th February – Recording Information

This week the P1’s were exploring different ways to sort and record information.  Prior to going outside children used our number pebbles to sort themselves into numerical order from 0 to 10.

Outside we made a grid using sticks and a white sheet and the children chose six items that they could collect from the Outdoor Learning Area (fire cones, holly, logs. apples, saucepan and rocks.

Once we had collected this information, we made a graph using sticks and stones to record the information we had collected.

Numicon Treasure Hunt

Numicon pieces are designed to help children visualise numbers and we are hoping to use them in lots of fun ways in our outdoor explorer maths sessions. This week there was a race on for the first team to collect all ten numicon shapes. After the race the children were given free time to explore and have their own fun.  One group enjoyed working together to transport long sticks safely around the outdoor area, whilst another group found some pipes and began to explore their potential for play and experimentation. Apples, fir cones and stones were all launched down the track and the children were engrossed in working out how to make the items they had found go faster and further.

P1 – Adding and Subtracting

  • To warm them up the children had to run to find their sums, which were hidden in some plastic eggs.
  • The eggs were brought back to the base area and opened up to find the sums inside.
  • The children then used fir cones and seed trays, in number frames of 10, to break down and calculate their sums.