A breath of fresh air in Wallsend Parks

Date Posted: 31/03/2015

School: Percy Main Primary School, North Shields, Tyne & Wear
Destination: Wallsend Parks, Wallsend, North Tyneside

In an ongoing quest to extend teaching beyond the classroom, an enterprising school made full use of a local park for a fun-filled orienteering session.

Year 2 pupils from Percy Main Primary School enjoyed an exciting journey of discovery when they headed to Wallsend Parks.

The 40-acre site, comprising three distinctive areas of parkland, has been redeveloped through a £7 million Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Funded ‘Parks for People’ programme.

The visit, organised by deputy head teacher Donna Callaghan and HLTA/outdoor learning co-ordinator Karen Brownrigg, also reflected the value of building links with local attractions.

“As the seventh school in the UK to be awarded LOtC gold in 2014 we are continually striving and looking at ways in which we can deliver and extend teaching and learning beyond the indoor classroom,” explained Donna.

“A recent focus of some creative curriculum topic planning based on a theme related to traditional tales with a story twist, entitled Twice Upon a Time, enabled staff to become imaginative and creative in how they would deliver a Maths lesson based on direction.”

Although the school benefits from its own extensive grounds that are used for outdoor learning, it has developed a growing partnership with Wallsend Parks and the education warden Zoe Frazer, who ensured the site provided the perfect setting for the learning experience.

“Prior to the visit Zoe designed five maps of the park each with different directions marked on them, the aim being that by following the directions the children would find a hidden clue, which again prior to our visit Zoe had hidden at strategic points around the park.

“The clues were hidden in hessian bags which she felt blended well with the natural environment. As a visual clue to help the children, orienteering flags were tied around the trees near the bags.”

Divided into five groups, the children set off with a tablet to record their journey and findings. At each map point they were asked if they had to turn right or left, clockwise or anticlockwise.

By following directional clues they had to find the bags which contained objects relating to a story they had previously experienced in the classroom.

Donna said: “Once found, the children looked at the clue inside and then returned to ‘base’ to share news of their find before being given a second map with different directional markings.

“The learning was only completed when each group had collected the answers from the clues in all five bags. Constant consolidation of the learning objective meant that by the end of the session the children all had a good understanding of direction and basic map reading skills.”

As a result of the restoration work Wallsend now boasts woodland walks, gardens, a sculpture trail and Victorian bandstand, all providing an inspirational learning environment and a safe place for pupils to be introduced to orienteering in a fun way.

“Funding has allowed the park to have a full team of staff, including an education warden to help and support all aspects of outdoor learning, both at the park and in school grounds.

Summing up the day Donna said: “Skilful planning and teamwork, a key feature in the early stages, ensured the children and adults who supported the lesson were met with many challenges and the outcomes were certainly steeped in excellence and enjoyment. The parks provided a backdrop for some outstanding outdoor learning.”

For more information visit www.northtyneside.gov.uk/wallsendparks

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