Reception Curricular Overview
Access to nature and the outdoor environment is linked to numerous cognitive benefits, including generosity, creativity, lowering stress levels, and even boosting the immune system. What better traits to help our young pupils develop the skills necessary for lifelong learning? With this in mind we ensured that the natural wonders of the world became embodied in our redevelopment. We built purposeful, inspirational and challenging outdoor learning opportunities firmly into the heart of Hull Collegiate School Foundation Stage’s new open-air learning environment. This development provides our Nursery and Reception pupils with a kaleidoscope of opportunities to nurture their curiosity and creativity, extend their confidence, empathy and self-esteem, and develop their communication skills, knowledge of the natural environment and ability to assess risk.
The new outdoor area incorporates a self-contained, fully immersive sand area. Here, our pupils shed their shoes as they explore creative, physical and mathematical space and measures concepts, and we have plans to add a pulley system to further enhance this resource. The large water discovery region provides endless opportunities for deeper level thinking, as our pupils energetically work the hand pumps to create the appropriate water flow, and consider how to measure, transport and redirect the water they produce. Covered water butts collect the rain run-off from our new canopied decking; our pupils use this water to dilute their mud to their chosen consistency in the new mud kitchen, an area ideal for mixing potions or preparing “dinner”. Our pupils also work hard filling their watering cans from the water butts in order to maintain the flowers, vegetables, fruit bushes and trees they have planted and are nurturing in our fabulous, self-contained growing area. This garden enables our pupils to study a rich variety of horticulture, from planting to harvest and beyond.
As our pupils explore further, the hobbit house under the hill feeds their imagination in story making and role-play. The climbing equipment, including rocks, tunnels, wobble bridge, slide and fireman’s pole enables them to assess and take appropriate risks as they develop their confidence in coordination and movement. The steep grassed slopes provide endless opportunities for developing stamina, as the children travel up and down them; they also provide an excellent base for sledging in the winter, and “slip and slide” in warmer weather. Outdoor building and construction zones provide opportunities for reasoning activities and creative design, and the multi-surfaced pedalled vehicle track enables the development of physical strength and coordination.
Behind the water discovery region, a magical secret garden entrance leads on to a woodland area. Here we have created a safe waterside pond viewing area and a permanent fire-pit with appropriate seating, where our pupils are taking part in a range of Forest School-style activities, led by our Forest School Level Three qualified Reception teacher, and learning fire safety and outdoor cooking skills such as making “smores” and pizzas. Plans are afoot for further development of the pond and woodland areas, which have already played host to a family of ducklings, in order to increase the amount of wildlife accessible to our pupils.
In any climate, during any season, and in all content areas, nature provides multiple venues and options for enhancing, enriching, and adding change of pace and place. Like a toolbox, the outdoors is readily accessible—just open the classroom doors and step outside. Which is exactly what we did! We wanted to create a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor environments, so we literally took the walls away, creating a portal between the two spaces.
With three of the walls replaced with glass bi-fold doors we have created a sense of being in the same space, whether out or indoors. Looking out, you see a canvas of lush green floor, trees and natural wood. Scientific studies emphasise that nature has such a positive influence on children’s mental and physical health that simply seeing green lowers stress levels and increases alertness; a major factor in our careful positioning of the writing and guided teaching tables.
We picked a colour pallet that signifies nature, with soft earthy hues and natural wood finishes. The reading area’s direct proximity to the outdoors enables our pupils to become immersed in a book whilst snuggled into one of the giant bean bags on the decking or sprawled on a comfy sofa overlooking the garden, enclosed in the natural serenity of the breeze as the birds sing in the trees.
The adjacent snack table and kitchenette situated by the bi-fold doors allow the children easy access from the outdoor area to serve themselves fresh water and healthy snacks whenever needed. Weekly cookery activities support our pupils in understanding the concepts and practices that support healthy eating.
Our resources are carefully arranged to promote independence and ease of access. A variety of natural materials are used to enhance the imagination and skilful play in the small world and construction area. The abundance of natural light that floods the classroom enhances colours as it brightens up everything from the walls, furniture and resources to the children’s moods! The sweet shop maths area, with its abundance of colourful manipulatives stored in an eclectic mix of traditional sweet jars, not only maximises the available storage space, it recreates a bygone sweet shop that shouts role-play! The soundproof partition bi-fold door allows the space to be divided if required, and connects a well-resourced art and DT area complete with children’s wood work benches, where our children are taught the necessary safety skills to use resources including electric sewing machines, hot glue guns, hand drills, junior hacksaws, hammers and screw drivers, promoting a high level of challenge and high order thinking.
The seamless transition between our Reception classrooms and the outdoors, enables our pupils to take, use, share and adapt the information and skills that they have learned during more formal, teacher-led activities, thus embedding their learning at increasingly deeper levels.
The activities and experiences we provide incorporate all areas of the Department for Education and Skills Curriculum for the Early Years Foundation Stage. There are seven areas of learning and early learning goals within this curriculum:
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development
- Communication and Language
- Physical Development
- Mathematical Development
- Knowledge and Understanding of the World
- Expressive Arts and Design
Every day, our pupils have the opportunity, through well-planned activities to:
- Practice and build up ideas, concepts and skills
- Investigate and explore their curiosities and ideas
- Communicate and socialise
- Read, record and write
- Imagine, create, evaluate and adapt
- Represent and act out their experiences
- Consider and assess risk and try out new experiences
- Maintain focus, sustain high levels of engagement and pay attention to detail.
- Develop persistence and perseverance
- Think for themselves
- Gain self-confidence
- Take a pride in their achievements