Teacher's INSET: Art and Outdoor Learning

A couple of weeks ago, all the teachers from the 5 schools, plus Andover Trees United and CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) staff, were invited along to the CAS Chapel in Andover for an INSET (professional development/sharing) afternoon.

We wanted to make sure that everyone understood the thinking behind the project, had met the other project partners, and had a chance to share how things were working in practice.

The session was a combination of reminding everyone of the aims of the project, facilitating hands-on activities to explore the trees of the surrounding churchyard, and discussing the role of art and outdoor learning in the Primary and Secondary curriculum.

We explored the value of art as a way of learning about the world through direct multi-sensory experience, and the additional value of taking that learning outside to interact with our immediate environment.

As we will be holding our Ash Tree Stream exhibition at the CAS chapel from 11th to 25th July this year, it was also an opportunity to show everybody the space, and discuss with CAS Program Curator Susan Francis what might be possible.


We want an exhibition that will prioritise the voices of the children, through sharing sound/video/quotes alongside artefacts and photographs from the project sessions. The specific design/curation of the exhibition however, will be decided upon much later in the project, when we’ve seen where the project sessions and the children’s interests have taken us.

As part of our discussions on artful/creative approaches to learning, we looked at the value of child-led or child-centred ways of working. As the three sessions within each school are spaced out across the year, we want to enable the work taking place within these project sessions to ripple out into the wider school community, and on into the children’s families/homes, rather than take place in a bubble.

To do this we are aiming to engage the children in ways of exploring, noticing and making, which are relevant to them and their needs/interests. We are involving them in documenting sessions by recording their investigations in their sketchbooks, involving them in planning sessions wherever possible, and supporting their teachers to follow where this journey takes them,making links with their ongoing classroom-based learning.

‘Exploring nature with (a) child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils and finger tips, opening up the disused channels of sensory impression.

…I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the (adult) seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.’

The Sense of Wonder, Rachel Carson

Published by James Aldridge

Visual Artist and Consultant, working and playing with people and places. Based in Wiltshire, UK

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