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Creative Outdoor Learning – Inset Day at Crane Park Primary School

by James on September 7th, 2011

I had a great day on Monday at a school in Hounslow. I was asked to come in by Sue the headteacher and run an inset day that gave the staff group an opportunity to think about what creative learning can look like and achieve in the outdoors.

I kicked off by sharing my work as an artist, how I use creative sensory investigation to explore my local area, and making to reflect on and share my experiences, and then I talked about my work with organisations such as 5x5x5=creativity, creative partnerships and heritage/environmental organisations. I wanted to make clear the links between my own working processes and my work in creative learning.

We explored what creativity looked like for different people, and how by supporting each individual to explore and learn about the local environment in ways that are relevant to them and their needs, there can be huge benefits for learning.

What I wanted to do was to offer the group a chance to use their own creativity to explore, document and alter/enhance their outside space at school, to talk about how that felt as a group and so start to empathise with the experiences of children that they work with who might gain from a similar approach.

I’ve not got many photos from the morning as obviously I was busy with the group, but above are a couple from when we were looking at photography as a tool for documenting experiences of place, and how we could layer those images with text, found materials etc to better evoke the multi-sensory nature of such experiences and the thoughts and memories that they can trigger. We discussed how this could inform our use of documentation when recording children’s own investigations and learning journeys, and how we can offer a more holistic, evocative record of a creative activity by sharing the process in different ways, rather than just the end products.

In the afternoon the pairs joined to form larger groups and were given quite an open brief, by being asked to work to enhance, accentuate or completely change a space or feature in the school grounds. I provided a range of reclaimed materials and tools and a certain amount of support and guidance, and the teachers and teaching assistants did the rest.

There were five groups of six or eight staff – here’s a taster of what each group came up with.

A shelter made by building onto a simple wooden bench…

A group of different sized willow balls strung together and hung from a tree…











A working maypole created with scrap fabric, cardboard tubes and wood, amongst other things…

An interactive woven sculpture made to curve around a tree and define a quiet space…











And Number Eleven, a den made with wood, willow and fabric, attached and woven into a chain -link fence, with colours chosen to link with the Virginia Creeper climbing over it…

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