Matt Petch is a specialist outdoor teaching assistant at Spire Infant and Nursery school in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He runs regular lunchtime and after school gardening clubs and works closely with teachers to provide outdoor learning sessions in class time. He feels that Spire Infants are very lucky as a school to have a wide variety of outdoor spaces including a woodland area, allotments, and green open spaces.
Matt was initially trained as an outdoor activities instructor working with children and adults in various outdoor centres in the the UK and Europe. After working in the outdoor industry for 5 years, he trained to be a secondary school teacher, specialising in design and technology. Matt then later worked at a secondary school in Nottinghamshire for 14 years before the call of the outdoors brought him out of the classroom to Spire Infants in Chesterfield.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I take inspiration from children’s enthusiasm to play. Immersing themselves in new activities to develop a wide variety of new skills is vital. We constantly strive to make good use of our outdoor space at Spire Infants, as we believe that the great outdoors is the hub of a happy successful school. I am driven by the positive use of our outdoor spaces and believe that it is a central role in the schools curriculum. My ideas are generated from a variety of sources, but mostly from using the natural materials around the site.
What makes the perfect outdoor space?
I believe the perfect outdoor space is multifunctional, can be used in all weather conditions, is well organised and can stimulate children. It is important that they interact, have fun and link their experiences outdoors, back into the classroom environment, for example by growing and eating their own vegetables. Caring for the environment is also a very important consideration when using any outdoor space. Lastly, it should involve everyone and should provide a positive link from the school to the community.
How do you use your budget to build your outdoor space?
At Spire Infant and Nursery School we use our budget carefully to create the following specific outdoor areas: construction, literacy and role play, sports, tree house reading area, fruit and vegetable gardens, forest school and wildlife areas. We build a lot of our own resources including willow structures, performance stages, role play market stall, water play areas and mud kitchens.
The great outdoors is the hub of a happy and successful school…
With thanks to Matt Petch for providing his insight into the perfect outdoor space.