Hextol Teachers meeting 2017

Hextol teacher meeting


What we’re doing to broaden the use of the outdoor spaces and ideas of activities which can be tied into the curriculum:


In the field:

Planting an orchard with fruit trees and bushes

Behind the allotment sheds we are planning to plant an orchard. This will take years to fully develop so there will not be immediate results but there is plenty to learn about as the space develops:

-          We will be doing tree planting this spring so there is potential for students to be involved and learn about roots and soil

-          There will be regular tree care, including putting in supports, mulching around the trees, making signs and information plaques to tell others about the trees and the orchard

-          Students can learn about the seasons through watching the fruit trees develop

-          Learning about pollination and bees and insects

-          Dissecting and drawing parts of a flower

-          Learning about seeds and fertilisation through fruit harvesting

-          Habitats and food cycles

-          How water is taken up by a tree- experiment using a daffodil or celery stem and blue ink (can be done in classrooms or in the orchard)

-          Soil types and compost, worms and fungi

Planting two bog gardens, one next to the orchard behind the sheds and the other near the entrance to the field

This will make use of already boggy areas of the grounds to attract wildlife and create diversity of ecosystems in the grounds. Hopefully they will attract frogs, possibly bats, dragonflies as well as birds and a range of insects to the field. Some ideas of how children can use the resource after they are planted in late spring include:

-          Looking at habitats and the difference between bog areas and grass, meadow, orchard and woodland

-          Learning about food webs, life cycles and ecosystems

-          Bird watching and insect hunting

Developing the meadow

We have been scarifying and sowing thousands of wildflower seeds on the meadow in the field, and we had some success last summer with wildflowers which will continue to gradually develop over several years. Here’s some ideas of how the meadow could be used:

-          In midsummer students could investigate which flowers are growing in the meadow, using quadrats looking at regularly cut grass as a comparison of how many and which flowers grow in both spaces. This could be connected to a science or maths project (we can supply images of which flowers are growing)

-          Learning about flowers and pollination, bees and insects

-          Counting insects and bees, looking at what lives in the meadow

-          Creative writing sitting in the meadow

Areas in the playgrounds:

EYFS garden

We’ve been adding plants and cleaning up areas in the eyfs garden. This can now be used for play and exploration. The mud kitchen garden now has plants in it and the final stages is to build some bug hotels in the space to encourage insects and birds.

-          Children can learn about the plants growing through observation. Many plants are herbs and have colour in different seasons and there are strawberries growing to learn about food. Taking photos at different times in the year to see changes and how plants grow (we can supply a map of plants growing).

-          We need help to build bug hotels and make hanging insect homes. Students can help by learning about insect habitats and design bug hotels for us to help to make. Possibly working with year 6 students for a buddy system to develop. We can build the structures and supply the materials if needed.

-          Learning about birds and designing and making bird feeders and a bird bath (we can supply materials and support)

Susan’s garden

We are currently in the design stages of developing the space behind the wall in the back playground. In the spring we will be planting the borders with very hardy plants and putting in seating and possibly a pergola into the space. We are collaborating with Linda Lines. Linda is working with a selected group of year 6 students to add creative elements into the space. The year 6 students Linda has been working with hope that it can become a quiet and reflective space which can offer a retreat in the playground. They want there to be a good habitat for birds and insects.

-          Students could learn about bird habitats, what they eat and which birds we might see. Designing bird feeders, boxes, and bird baths (we can support)

-          Learning about bees and insects and researching which plants attract them

-          Learning about plants and food webs

-          Making information signs for a wildlife walk

Art space in front playground

The piece of grass in front of the staff room is planned to become a space for doing art and reading and playing quietly away from the noise of the playground. I have had a design session with year 4 and I will continue to involve them in this project. Many things could be done in the space, including:

-          Designing decorations on the mushrooms seats to be painted and re-installed

-          Designing and painting wooden fence slats (we can cut and varnish them) to decorate the fence line

-          Make outdoor art to have displayed in the exhibition space

-          Help to plant up and decorate planters for the space

Other spaces which could be used for designing with students

In the field there are two areas either side of the large table and awning which could be designated as project spaces for different year groups to design. These are:

-          The circular mound with large logs surrounding it to the left of the table

-          The space in the far corner with the wooden runway in the centre. Potential to develop it into a place for performing in.

Other activities in the grounds which could be tied into the curriculum

-          Weekly allotment sessions, lunch club in the allotment, sowing seeds and harvesting, watering and learning about soil and how plants grow. This can lead to a harvest festival and learning cooking skills and campfire skills

-          Learning about decomposition through compost using the compost and leaf mould bins we have made in the field

-          Using the wormery in the allotment area

-          In spring there will be lots of bulbs flowering throughout the grounds. Learning about the cycles of bulbs and flowers growing in different seasons and flower structure.

-          Decomposition, soil and water movement

-          Properties and materials both natural and unnatural

-          Food chains and what we have on the grounds: we have foxes, cats, hedgehogs, birds, worms, insects and plants to name a few

-          Hedgehog or bat homes

-          Bird spotting and drawing at different times of year

-          Insect hotels around the grounds

-          Looking at patterns in nature and finding them repeated both small scale and large- leaf veins, spirals, webs, honeycombs

-          Weather mapping

-          Creative writing exercises

-          Making sound sculptures


We are willing to provide materials and support for these projects. We will not be able to run sessions on them all as our main focus is on developing the spaces so that they become enhanced places for learning. My email address is charlotte.kell@hextol.org and feel free to contact me.