“The excitement of outdoor learning that I felt when I was at school comes back to me in floods whenever I head out with my class to our ‘Base Camp’ classroom,” says Bekah, a teacher whose pupils are enjoying the benefits of getting out of the classroom – whatever the weather.
“It’s called Base Camp because that’s really what it is – the starting point for all our outdoor expeditions and adventures and a place to shelter from the worst that the weather can throw at us. The rule is that once we’re out - we’re out. Come rain or shine, gales, hale or snow there’s no heading back into stuffy old school once we’ve stepped out and why would we!?”
Base Camp classroom is just one example of the many creative ways that timber buildings from Cabins For Schools are being used to create interactive, stimulating and engaging outdoor spaces for learning.
Creating an outdoor learning space, that is accessible in all weather conditions, gives your school an almost unlimited range of extra activities that can both support the national curriculum and add a little spice and diversity to your school’s extra-curricular offer.
You can let your students really take ownership of the cabin, encourage them to name it – the name Base Camp, for instance, was chosen by Bekah’s Year 6s.
To demonstrate the multi-functional possibilities of your Cabins For Schools outdoor classroom, we asked Bekah to name her Five Favourite Base Camp activities – before we could stop her she’d named six! You too will find endless potential that will excite you and your pupils!
Bekah’s Five Six Favourite Base Camp Activities
1 - Outdoor Art Classroom
Most indoor classrooms are pretty uninspiring. They’re functional spaces, rows of desks with a teachers at the front in front of an interactive whiteboard or chalkboard - and that’s alright for the teaching of Maths or Geography but, for art, you want to be somewhere that stimulates your senses.
Bekah says, “I can’t imagine Constable painting ‘The Hay Wain’ or ‘Dedham Vale’ from the confines of a regular art classroom. He’d never have painted 'Flatford Mill’, instead we’d be admiring Constable’s ‘The Radiator’ or Constable’s ‘View of The Tarmac Playground’.”
“Since getting the children out of the classroom and into Base Camp we’ve seen their engagement with the subject grow, the creativity that is sparked with a bit of fresh air, a change of scene and that pine, forest smell – it is off the scale.”
2 - Reading Nooks
“Every child becomes a reader when they step into Base Camp,” says Bekah.
“Schools are not a natural reading space. Any silence is rather forced and manipulated – just think what happens when a teacher has to leave the room – bedlam. Trying to concentrate or give an author your full attention is hard when a hundred kids pile noisily along the corridor the other side of the door. Willing suspension of disbelief takes some real effort when your thoughts get distracted from the scene the book is setting by the sound of thirty chairs scraping along the floor of the classroom above.”
Before Base Camp, Bekah and colleagues used to play birdsong from a CD to help with attention when reading, now bird song comes as a free extra.
“The children seem to find it easier to lose themselves in a story outside of the classroom environment, the fusty, stale air of the classroom is no match for the ‘sprucey’ smell of Base Camp.”
3 - Eco Classroom
“Each intake seems more and more switched on to environmental issues,” says Bekah with obvious pride.
Thanks to his TV shows, Sir David Attenborough is as relevant to children today, if not more so than previous generations and Bekah says that is reflected in the activities that the children are choosing to do in the outdoor classroom.
“My childhood memory of David Attenborough programmes was of a lion stalking a herd of gazelles or something and while that was interesting it wasn’t the kind of thing that would ever be personally relevant to me. After watching Blue Planet, and how plastic bags were impacting whales and nature in general, the kids wanted to use Base Camp as their HQ for a community clear up. We started in the playground and fanned out into the wider surroundings and collected bags and bags of rubbish. The school caretaker cleaned what couldn’t be recycled and the children made a huge collage from the litter.”
The good news is your Eco Classroom is environmentally friendly too, made here in the UK from sustainable sources and we’re so confident in the longevity of the cabins that they come with a ten years manufacturer’s guarantee.
4 - “Ink-redible” Nature’s Pen And Ink!
“This was an exercise in natural ink making that the class loved! The best was made just popping acorns from the oak tree in the school grounds and chopped bits of bark into a jam jar, covering with water and leaving for a few days. We also made purple ink by boiling blackberries, reducing them over the cabin’s BBQ fire and adding salt and vinegar (the vinegar binds the pigment),” Bekah told us.
“We even made quills from different feathers we had found. A quick ‘nuke’ in the microwave kills any bugs on them. Top tip – the thicker the better! Ducks and Canadian Geese were great natural pen makers. Cut the tip into a slant to create the nib and make a small hole just above it.”
“For those averse to handling feathers, we also experimented with hollow reeds and twigs.”
5 - Camp-Fire
Base Camp is based on an Arctic Cabins BBQ hut and your outdoor classroom from Cabins For Schools can be fitted with or without the central, integral barbecue.
Bekah’s school opted to have one installed and make great use of the facility. She told us, “We have barbecued lunch, made the best hot chocolate ever and, just recently, the children loved making camp-fire stick bread from scratch!”
“Simple and quick bread recipes have always been used to sustain those living on camps, when we studied this, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Our unleavened (yeast free) bread used a Native American and Inuit stick technique over the fire instead of usual utensils. The kids loved cooking the bread twists and it was a fun team builder, immersive history lesson and maths class all rolled into one as the pupils calculated the quantities of the ingredients they needed.”
This sounded so good that we just had to share the recipe.
Ingredients For 24 Camp-Fire Stick Bread Twists
1kg self-raising of flour
6 tbsp of sugar
600ml – 1 litre of water or milk
Spoon to mix and pot to mix in
Stripped clean branches or wooden spoons to twist around
Cabins For Schools BBQ or Campfire!
i. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in your bowl until you have a smooth dough.
ii. Knead the dough to work it and stretch and roll a handful of dough into a long sausage.
iii. Twist the dough around the end of a stripped branch (if you’re feeling adventurous) or wooden spoon (if playing it safe)
iv. Position the stick over the embers of the grill (ie, not in a direct flame) and turn occasionally.
v. After about 10 minutes, when it is golden brown, remove and enjoy!
6 - Safe Space
This is perhaps the greatest use that you’ll get from your outdoor building from Cabins For Schools - A safe space in an increasingly hectic and often uncertain world.
“Base Camp is a godsend for children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). The school has always had a great vision and ethos, our whole culture is based around every child achieving their aspirations and potential but that could be hard before. We were always mindful that no kids would get lost in the busy-ness of the school but that also it was important sometimes for some pupils to have space for us to focus on their needs – while not making them feel different or side-lined from the rest of the school. As Base Camp is everyone’s space, this is never an issue.”
“Sometimes it’s a child who needs a break out space or a place to cool down, or even a member of staff who needs a place to gather their thoughts during their lunch or break time - it’s a multifunctional safe place and we wonder how we managed without it.”
To find out more about how adding a multifunctional outdoor learning room could enrich your school, your pupils and your colleagues, call us on 0800 0448 418, email or visit our show-site village of timber buildings just off junction 25 of the M1. Read the case studies at cabinsforschools.co.uk and request a free site survey.
Inspired by Bekah, think of this post as your very own Base Camp. We can’t wait to hear where YOUR expedition takes you. Happy exploring!