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Science and Outdoor Learning

Science and Outdoor Education


At Parsonage Farm Science and Outdoor Education often go hand in hand.  When a child learns about the life-cycle of a caterpillar the obvious place to start is outside through first-hand experiences.  Moreover, through having lots of first-hand experiences of the natural world children can start to see patterns – in autumn the leaves turn red, orange and brown and fall off the trees – and they can see changes in patterns – some of the leaves in autumn are still green – which leads them to ask questions – why are some leaves green and some are brown – why do some leave stay on the tree – what is the purpose of being evergreen?  It is through the continual recognition and questioning of patterns that children begin to understand and can form hypotheses – the leaves of evergreen trees continue to photosynthesise over the winter, which must provide food for the tree to grow throughout the winter.

Being outdoors and having a love and understanding of our natural world brings us calmness and wonder.  It allows us to care for our natural world and to start to consider how we can look after it.

In order for children to work scientifically they need opportunities

  • to raise and seek answers to their own questions
  • to experience and apply different types of enquiry
  • to communicate their ideas and findings verbally and through drawing, labelling, annotating and writing
  • to be able to revisit ideas; to change and build on their ideas
  • to be able to make mistakes
  • to work from first-hand experiences

Progression of Skills

Scientific skills start in the Nursery and develop through Year R, Year 1 and Year 2.  Each year, science skills and understanding progress by building on existing knowledge and understanding and taking science questions to a new, higher level.  This often means that elements of learning are revisited to encourage understanding to be consolidated. 

For example, a child in Nursery may learn the Nursery Rhyme Incy Wincy Spider and will start to become fascinated by living creatures.  They may collect and observe spiders, finding out that they have eight legs and eight eyes and that they build webs to trap their prey.  In Year R that child might find a spider in the grounds and recall how it has eight legs and will have a good idea where to find them.  By Year 1 that child will start to classify a spider as belonging to the world of invertebrates, but may also discover that it isn’t an insect.  A child will be able to tell you that a spider isn’t an insect because it doesn’t have three body parts (head, abdomen and thorax) and because it doesn’t have six legs.  A child may go on a spider hunt and may tally each time a spider is seen.  That information may then be transferred into a block graph to show how many spiders are found across different environments.  A child will be confident in their knowledge of a spider’s habitat and will start to consider which animals prey on spiders and which animals spiders prey on; forming a food chain.  By Year 2, that child will be exploring their knowledge of spiders, their habitat and life-cycle to answer a complex question in the form of a Longitudinal Study.  This study goes on throughout the whole of Year 2 with 10 opportunities for that child to take their study outside within the school grounds.

Teaching and Learning

The Science and Outdoor curriculum starts in the Nursery with the EYFS Foundation stage and continues into Year R.  As a child enters Year 1 and 2, the curriculum enters Key Stage 1.  Here we follow our own Hampshire Science curriculum; Hampshire Science Learning Journeys.

The frequency and format of science teaching and learning increases and changes as the child progresses through the school.  In Nursery and Year R (EYFS), science and outdoor education is part of a whole approach to learning.  Specific science is taught and continual provision is available to explore science and the outdoor world on a daily basis.  Much of the science and outdoor learning is generated through topic work.   For example in the Nursery children learn about the rain through the Nursery Rhyme Doctor Foster; in Year R children learn about animal bones through the topic on Dinosaurs.

In KS1 the children will follow a Longitudinal Study about the natural world whilst carrying on with other science learning.

The Progression of Scientific Skills

The following is an overview of the scientific skills that children will be taught throughout Parsonage Farm.  Previously taught skills will continue to be taught and applied more independently as they progress through the school. 

Enrichment Opportunities

At Parsonage Farm the children are given many additional opportunities to enrich their experience and understanding of Science and the Outdoor world. These may include: 

  • Growing and cultivating fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers as a class (Nursery and YR in their own garden, Year 2 in the allotment)
  • Engaging in our Parsonage Potato Competition
  • Helping to cultivate and having opportunities to observe and appreciate the school grounds with its different habitats and growing areas (allotment, wild garden, dry bed, solitary bee bed, pond, mature trees, wood) within Team Wilder
  • Opportunities to play in the large outdoor spaces of the field and the wood
  • Small group work with Mrs Bruce for Mrs Whittaker