This Place is Like a Building Site!

‘Building’ Confidence Through Outdoor Learning

Funded by the John Laing Charitable Trust, ‘This Place is Like a Building Site!’ gives primary pupils across England the opportunity to learn new skills while creating a substantial wooden feature for their school grounds.

The project supports children to thrive and achieve through practical experiential learning and contribution to a shared construction project, whilst supporting teachers to develop the confidence and skills to lead similar work in the future.

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About the Project

Through ‘This Place is Like a Building Site!’, we work with eight schools each year to give children a chance to make a difference in their own school grounds.

Working with an experienced member of the LtL Accredited Network over an intensive two-day workshop, pupils learn how to read plans, use hand and electric power tools, and follow detailed instructions. In doing so, they gain the construction skills needed to create a wooden structure in their school grounds; building confidence and inspiring future interests.

Where practical work is undertaken in schools, it is invariably on a small scale. Some children may have used hacksaws to cut small sections of timber, but will not have had the opportunity to cut larger timber with handsaws before. Indeed, it has been a striking and recurring theme of this project that many schools have admitted to leading little or no practical design and technology learning.

Therefore, ‘This Place is Like a Building Site!’ purposefully offers children the opportunity to develop physically large structures in their school grounds. The emphasis of this project is firmly on ‘doing’, but it also presents links to curricular learning. Features built in recent years include story-telling thrones and solitary bee hotels, thereby supporting a range of curriculum subjects from literacy to science and citizenship.

Why This Project Matters

The UK is facing a serious skills shortage in STEM and related subjects — along with an under-representation of women in STEM-related careers. At the heart of this issue is education. However, an emphasis on the academic curriculum at the expense of practical crafts — coupled with a lack of teachers’ practical skills — means that most children have very few opportunities to engage in creative activities. This is especially true for disadvantaged pupils.

Early exposure to practical opportunities (such as those provided through this project) helps children to appreciate the creative nature of STEM. For example, pupils who might struggle in a classroom may see these subjects brought to life outdoors, sparking a previously undiscovered interest in STEM.

What’s more, this project presents an opportunity to demonstrate how practical crafts intersect with other issues that children resonate with. For example, through the construction of a bee hotel, pupils can support their local pollinators and environmental biodiversity whilst learning about the principles of ethical construction.

Finally, Learning through Landscapes has long championed the health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor learning and play. Even those children that take different paths later in life benefit from exposure to practical activities by learning to better recognise and manage risk, work as a team, and build personal resilience and self-esteem. Thus, through ‘This Place is Like a Building Site!’ we are working with teachers alongside children to give both groups the confidence and necessary skills to work on practical crafts in the great outdoors.

Find Out More

Pupils at the Polygon School in Southampton built a storytelling throne as part of the Learning through Landscapes ‘This Place is Like a Building Site!’ project, with amazing benefits to pupil confidence and motivation.

See for yourself the meaningful impact of practical outdoor learning by watching our video, shortlisted in the 2023 Charity Film Awards, below. Alternatively, read the ‘This Place is Like a Building Site’ project report from 2019, detailing our work with eight schools located in Swindon.

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