The Great Outdoors

Fiona McDonald

Drumnamoe Nursery School

Drumnamoe Nursery Schoolis situated in the middle of the Kilwilkie Estate in North Lurgan, County Armagh. The children attending this nursery school come from a wide catchment area, with quite a large percentage coming from some of the most socially deprived wards in Northern Ireland.

The school comprises of four classes [two full-time and two part -time] with an enrolment number of 104 children, aged 3 – 4 years of age.

Fiona McDonald is the founding Principal, and opened the green field site in February 2002. The inspection in 2017 reported :“ the learning environment is of a very high quality both indoors and outdoors ”.

In this clip Fiona tells us about some of the misconceptions about outdoor learning, the many benefits and plans for improving it as an area to support the development of the nursery school children holistically, and in particular with a focus on health and well -being.

Key Learning

  • High quality outdoor learning experiences are vital to a child’s holistic development

  • An adult’s role outside is not merely as an observer but as a co- constructor of the childrens’ learning

  • Schools have a major role to play in encouraging children to get active and explore nature outside, and so ultimately enhance their life chances, first-hand learning experiences and improve their overall health in terms of weight , exercise and outlook

  • Outdoor resources are not necessarily expensive. Use volunteers, be creative with loose-parts, avail of external groups and agencies such as Oxford Island.

  • There are many misconceptions about outdoor learning but it can reach even those marginalised children who experience failure in the classroom

  • It appeals to all styles of learners, and allows children to learn in a less threatening type of environment than indoor schooling

Points to Consider

  • All schools have different outdoor learning spaces - make the most of what is available

  • Outdoor learning experiences should not be seen as an add -on to the curriculum, but as an integral part