When you think of a school classroom, you’ll probably picture four walls, chairs and desks. But what if a classroom had none of that? Just trees and foliage, lakes and fields, open sky for a ceiling, and learning materials strewn around on the woodland floor. Now imagine how much fun that would be for any enquiring young mind.
That sort of experience is just one of the benefits that Walhampton brings to a child’s education. Nestled within its 100-acre grounds, the school has a Forest School site and an outdoor classroom, providing unrivalled opportunities for practical open-air learning.
Outdoor learning is increasingly embedded in all areas of the curriculum and year groups, with Years 3 to 5 now having weekly sessions timetabled.
By exploring nature and working together – doing things like climbing, collecting, shelter building, cooking and fire lighting – the children have opportunities to make independent choices and take risks in a safe and controlled environment.
Children are natural-born adventurers and want to learn anything and everything about the world around them, so it is important that schools help them do this. This can help them to develop early approaches to problem-solving and year on year Walhampton sees a significant boost in self-awareness, independence, motor skills, confidence and importantly at this time, well-being. The outdoor curriculum also ensures that children develop communication abilities through collaborative-working.
Expeditions’ week is generally seen as one of the most important weeks of the school year and defines what Walhampton is all about.
We provide children with experiences outside the classroom which lead to greater confidence, self-reliance, selflessness and increased knowledge of how to be part of a team. Expeditions ‘week’ lasts for 5 to 7 days in June and is an integral part of education at Walhampton, involving all the children and staff. It is very different from anything else offered either on the curriculum, in games or activities, and deliberately so.
Junior School spend one or two nights in the school, whether boarding or camping in the grounds, and both year groups go on organised day trips with a team of Walhampton staff.
Middle School go on an expedition either in the UK or abroad which involves staying away from home, whether camping, hostel or other accommodation.
Our Year 8 children have the exciting opportunity to travel to the school's own accommodation in Mull, Scotland where they enjoy a range of activities including kayaking, white-water rafting, climbing, walking and many other pursuits.
The children return with many unforgettable memories, greater academic knowledge, increased understanding of themselves and their friends, and are better prepared to cope with the coming months and years.
Walhampton’s Head of Outdoor Learning, Simon Westerman, says: “More than ever, our world needs looking after so we aim to help our pupils discover the natural world and develop an understanding about how to protect and preserve it for future generations. We are lucky enough to come to a school with stunning grounds, packed full of wonder, and we make the most of every inch of our 100 acres. The school also owns a small property on Mull, which pupils in Year 8 visit annually to experience real challenge and adventure.”