Outdoor Education for schools at Abington Park
Education packs for schools will be available to purchase in 2015.
This article was written by Cally Smart – the Outdoor Learning Specialist writing our education packs for schools:
“I’m a country girl. I spent my childhood outside in the lanes and fields around my home in a small West Wales community; now I live in rural Wiltshire. Between times though, I experienced the bustle and business of city life when I spent several years living and teaching In London. It was then that I learnt what a fabulous resource a park can be in the middle of a town or city. It can provide those moments of tranquillity when you kick off your shoes, inhale deeply and all is well.
People value the time they spend in parks, whether walking a dog, playing football, jogging or having a picnic.
Along with these leisure activities, parks can also provide real, measurable health benefits by providing direct contact with nature, a cleaner environment, opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. Visit it at different times of day and at different times of year and you’ll gain a rich and varied experience which will enable you to thrive amidst the stresses of modern living.
All this is true of Abington Park. Moreover, with its long and varied history dating right back to the Domesday Book, it is also a rich resource for teachers to plunder as an Outdoor Classroom. This is where I come in.
Sara from Eco Kids approached me nearly a year ago with a view to writing some education packs for Northampton schools to use which would provide opportunities for teachers to bring their classes to the park to learn about its heritage and biodiversity.
It’s work I do nearer to home for the National Trust and others. Occasionally you’ll find me dressed up as a Viking or a Roman, teaching children about the lives our ancestors lived or working in a school garden sowing bee friendly plants among the peas and tomatoes.
My first glimpse of Abington was on a balmy Summer’s evening when I accompanied a group of local scouts on a tour of the park with archaeologist Jack Ploughman whilst he explained about the history of the remaining buildings and we studied the landscape for evidence of what had happened here during the past few hundred years. Around us joggers dashed by, dog walkers exercised their pooches, young couples drank wine and chatted on the grass and children flew kites. It wasn’t a bad introduction.
Since then I have trawled the archives, looked at dozens of pictures, poured over aerial photographs, read quite a few newspaper reports and letters and discovered a lot about life in Abington Park since medieval times.
I’m ready to draw local children into the story of the park and connect them with nature, with their community and their heritage.
I believe that any subject can be taught outdoors, so, in future if you see groups of children engaged in measuring activities with sticks and stones, making artwork with natural materials or performing an impromptu play in the park, you’ll know that I’m responsible.
Nature is a powerful ally in educating children. It fully engages all their senses, gets them away from computer screens and enables them to take risks and to respect the needs of others and their environment. It enhances problem solving and teamwork skills.
I hope many teachers bring their classes to Abington Park over the coming months and years to explore, learn, have fun and build a rich store of memories on which they can draw in the future.
What may only take a moment can have an effect which lasts a lifetime…”