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Learning in the Natural Environment

Sharing our Harvest Crops

On Friday 7th October 2016 we had a packed hall of parents, friends and family eager to take part in our Harvest Assembly. We had an impressive array of harvest gifts ready to donate to the Shekinah Mission. They are a local charity supporting homeless people in our city.


The children from Willow Class made a trip to the allotment during the week to harvest the wonderful crops of fruit and vegetables as part of our school donation. This included marrows, carrots, onions, leeks, pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, apples and beetroot. Thank you very much to Bill for taking such good care of our allotment.

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Outdoor Learning at Oakwood - September 2016


On Friday 30th September we started our day with an assembly outside. The brass group played beautifully and the children sang energetically. It was an invigorating way to start this sunny morning!


The rest of the morning was followed by a range of outdoor activities and learning which included exploring our newly cleared copse, a bike and scooter obstacle course, leaf collecting, watercolour art and poetry writing inspired by the environment, planting daffodil bulbs in the class garden boxes and being nature detectives in and around the Bird Hide and the Den. Lots more took place outside during the day and this is fast becoming an inspiring part of our learning at Oakwood.


Here is a selection of photos showing the learning that took place outdoors.

Plymouth in Bloom- September 2016


On Thursday 8th September 2016 Mrs Litherland attended the annual Plymouth in Bloom presentation evening. Sam and Callum from year 4 were proud to receive the Bronze Award in the School Wildflower Garden category. The certificate was presented by the Lord Mayor, Pauline Murphy. We were particularly thrilled to be recognised for this award because it was the first award that we have received for our outdoor learning environment at Oakwood. Our allotment has been very successful in previous years so this represents another aspect of our commitment to environmental learning at Oakwood. We would like to say a special thank you to Mrs O’Carroll and her Gardening Club and to Mr Hibbert and his Environmental Club for all their hard work in helping to develop our beautiful grounds. Well done to everyone!



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Babcock International - August 2016

A huge thank you to Babcock International, who loaned us their apprentices for the second year running over the Summer holiday to work on the environmental area at Oakwood. This community link provided their labour, tools and materials free of charge. Here are some of the improvements they have made at Oakwood.

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The apprentices laid pathways from the new Learning Den so that the children could walk through our award winning wild flower garden towards the bird hide. It took a lot of digging to mark out the paths and then lay the edging and bark. The stepping stones from the shrub area by the Key Stage 1 classes were re-located to give the paths the final finishing touch!

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The apprentices cleared the pathway through the copse.  The pathway leads to a natural seating area made of logs, branches and willow. This is a perfect setting for the children to learn about our beautiful woods and to enjoy watching the birds around the bird boxes.

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The apprentices built a mud kitchen from re-claimed materials; this is set beside the bird hide. They relocated the seating area nearer to the Learning Den and have added boards to the fence which will become an art gallery later this term!

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The apprentices also put a roof over our cob oven and cleared the pathways around the shrub areas by Key Stage 1. The totem poles, bench and Maisy’s seat were given a makeover and look amazing. A massive thank you to all of the Babcock apprentices who worked so hard and enthusiastically for us over the Summer. Finally, thank you to our Outdoor Learning Den Committee for giving their time so generously organising and supporting this project over the summer holiday. Well done everyone!

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Outdoor Learning Den – Summer 2016


At the end of July we had our Outdoor Learning Den installed at Oakwood. After many, many fund raising events and lots of hard work from a very dedicated group of people on our Outdoor Den Committee, the Den is finally here! The following photographs show the construction of the building; over this term we will show you how the children are using it as part of our school environmental area. Please support us in looking this wonderful resource.

The Construction of the Outdoor Learning Den - July 2016

Building the Cob Oven - Stage 2 - July 2016

Building the Cob Oven - Stage 1 -July 2016

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Cherry Blossom at Oakwood - Spring 2016

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Oakwood from the sky!

Birdwatch - February 2016

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Big Schools’ Birdwatch

During February the children of Oakwood and Beechwood will be taking part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, a national event linked to the well known Big Garden Birdwatch and organised by the RSPB. It is a simple, fun survey and a great example of ‘citizen science’ for our pupils to get involved with. Children will count birds for a short period of time and their records sent off to the RSPB. This is part of a range of surveys designed to keep an eye on how our  wildlife is doing.  They will also have the opportunity to make bird feeders and take part in other fun activities such quizzes linked to the survey.


If any parents have any binoculars and/or bird books that they are happy to send in with their children, that would be very helpful. Why not try testing yourselves and your children this   weekend by identifying and counting the birds in your garden?


Search for ‘RSPB big schools birdwatch’ for some resources and more information about what the children will be doing. The RSPB website is also a great place to look for information about identifying birds.



Tree Planting - November 2015

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Tree planting – November 2015

Over the last two weeks most of the children have had the chance to plant a tree in the school grounds thanks to a donation of free tree saplings from the Woodland Trust. By the end of this week we will have planted approximately 200 native broadleaved trees, including a grove of oak trees in the north east corner of the grounds near Chestnut class that the children would like to dedicate to the memory of Mrs Norris.


The children have greatly enjoyed their tree planting and are already talking about the benefits to wildlife and how they will visit the school as adults to see how 'their' trees have grown!  Thank you to all the children and staff who have got involved with this rewarding project.  Why not ask your child to show you the trees that they have planted?


Harvest produce from the allotment - October 2015

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Plymouth in Bloom Competition - September 2015

Following the judges visit to our Federation Allotment in July, Scarlett and Harry attended the awards evening at Plymouth Garden Centre and were thrilled to collect the BRONZE award for best school allotment and.......the GOLD award for our fabulous wildlife garden.  Many, many thanks go to Bill Blake who helps make our allotment and wildlife garden such a wonderful success.  Children enjoy planting, harvesting and eating all the many different varieties of fruit and vegetables he grows, often as specific requests from the children.  Together with certificates the children were presented with a bag of bulbs and membership of the Royal Horticultural Society for a year.

Lord Mayor opening our environmental area - July 2015

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Official Launch the Outdoor Learning Den Project – July 2015

The school was a buzz on Monday 6th July as it hosted the Lord Mayor; dignitaries and local companies to officially launch the Outdoor Learning Den Project. The Lord Mayor was very pleased to have been invited to Oakwood and spoke of the importance of incorporating environmental and outdoor learning elements into the   education syllabus.


He was met by Isobel and Aidan, the Outdoor Learning Ambassadors, who took him on a quick tour of the school before the children led an interactive assembly. There was a fun and lively overview of the project mixed with music from the brass band thanks to Mrs Litherland and fantastic contribution from the Gardening Club, thanks to Mrs O'Carroll and Mrs Darcy.


The Lord Mayor then went down to the Outdoor Learning area to open the newly finished Bird Hide. He toasted marshmallows with pupils from the Fire Pit; and met Woody the school tortoise. He even helped with some digging before he left! He commended the school for the positive feel it has in making the most of its       wonderful outdoor area and asked if he could pop back and pay us another visit very soon.


Overall the children really took the lead in showing the Lord Mayor the progress they had made in developing the area with all their great ideas and were proud to show what they had achieved over the past year with the Bird Hide, Pond, Fire Pit, Picnic Benches and Poly Tunnel. The Committee look forward to working with the children throughout the next year with all their new and exciting ideas for the area.

Our great thanks to Mrs Sparrow and Mrs O'Carroll for all their hard work throughout the year and in helping to official launch the Outdoor Learning Project - without either the project would just not be possible!

Go to the Outdoor Learning Den page for more photographs of this exciting launch.

HMS Heroes Poppy Garden - Summer 2015

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Our new fire pit - Summer 2015

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Outdoor Den Meeting

Many thanks to all those who attended the Outdoor Den meeting. It was very successful and has got the fund raising ideas kicked off! We are looking to meet again at the school on Tuesday 11th November at 6pm and would love to welcome anyone interested in finding out more about the project or willing to help with any fundraising activity big or small! As the land is now clear and planning is underway we are hosting a number of fundraising events within the local community so please either come along or pop an idea in the suggestion box of any events you would like to see.

Gardening Club measuring out the space for our outside classroom:

The Outdoor Den

We are a BEACON school for learning in the natural environment!

We are a BEACON school for learning in the natural environment! 1

The Southernway Federation has been selected as one of the eight schools in Plymouth to be a Beacon school for Learning in the Natural Environment.  Beacon schools have been identified as already demonstrating high quality environmental activities for children and we will now link to other local primary and secondary schools to share good practise.


The project is linked to Plymouth University and is part of the Governments ‘Natural Environment White Paper which sets out to strengthen the connection between people and nature, and suggests that every child in England should be given the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural environment.


The children at Beechwood and Oakwood primary schools are well aware of their local environment and regularly  visit the Southway allotment, Southway nature reserve and are part of Forest schools. Throughout the next academic year we will be including more exciting

activities for the children, some of which you may like to be involved with. Please contact Tracy O'Carroll if you would like to volunteer for any of our environmental projects.


Gardening Club


We are currently in the process of clearing out our class beds. Over half-term we will be using a mini-digger to dig out the top layer of soil, which is full of weeds and building debris. Then we will be taking delivery of nice new top soil ready for each class to start work on their beds.


In gardening club we started planting our vegetable seeds in trays. Hopefully we will have seedlings to plant out in the new beds after half term.


If there are any parents or grown-ups who would like to help out with Gardening Club on Thursday afternoons (3.15-4.15p.m.) please come and see Tracy O'Carroll. 

Willow Class visits the Federation Allotment - February 2014


Willow class visits the allotment


Willow class went to the allotment to plant some seeds. Broad beans, cabbages and peas were planted by the children together with some flower seeds which when grown will attract wildlife.

In the first photograph Bill is explaining why the seeds will be planted in containers and left in the polytunnel.

Willow class will return to look at the seeds at the end of March.

Tree planting with the Plymouth Tree Partnership - March 2014

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Plymouth Tree Partnership - March 2014


A group of children from Alder class helped to plant 7 apple trees in our school field. The trees were donated by the Plymouth Tree Partnership. Two volunteers helped with digging the holes and the children helped to plant and stake the young trees. The children will be taking good care of the trees and ensuring that they get enough water while they are establishing in the ground. We think that our traditional British weather will be helping out with this!

We look forward to the fruit and shade that the trees will provide in later years.