Kids Head over Heels at New Ways of Learning
Byline: By Moira Sharkey South Wales Echo
Learning outdoors, climbing trees, cooking on camp fires and making dens are all on the timetable for some of the youngest pupils in Wales.
School yards and playgrounds are being transformed with climbing frames, colourful pirate ships, games areas and vegetable patches - all tools for the learning revolution for three to seven year olds.
The foundation phase, which aims to boost reading, writing and communication skills by learning through play, working in teams and not being confined to formal classroom lessons, is proving a real success.
The headteacher of Kitchener Primary School in Cardiff, which was one of 42 schools to pilot the foundation phase, says it is the best thing to happen in schools for many years.
The Welsh Assembly Government sums up this early years education as learning through play, swapping traditional lessons for activities which promote involvement and boost confidence.
It says it is in little doubt these sessions give children the best start to their education enhancing knowledge, creativity, skills and understanding.
From September, another 42 schools will begin piloting the curriculum in what is the next stage in an almost inevitable journey to it becoming compulsory for all of Wales' youngest pupils.
Jane Evans, headteacher of Kitchener, said: 'It's as though the sunshine, the rain and the fresh air gives the children confidence and builds their self-esteem.
'Foundation phase is the best thing that has happened for children in Wales for a long time.'
Flexibility is the key with children having a say in some activities they do each day. And learning how to learn is also a central theme of the foundation phase as is the development of personal and social skills and well-being.
The arrival of the foundation phase is most obvious in the development of play areas and outdoor classrooms in school yards and playground.
At the core of this curriculum is the use of the outdoors as an extension of the classroom.
The theory is that children can feel free to get involved, work as teams on problem-solving or individually on personal challenges and benefit from physical activity of working in the open air.
Children also become more aware of their environment, changes in the seasons, study bugs and plant-life, recognise leaves, and tend to their own school's gardens. …