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Eco and Outdoor Learning

Colby Primary School is located in a rural, agriculturally rich part of North Norfolk and, as such, its children are acutely aware of the environment around them and issues to do with the countryside and wildlife. The school prides itself on the level of environmental learning at all ages and throughout the curriculum. We prioritise time spent with a stimulating and quality environment, and this often means time spent outside the classroom in specially adapted outdoor space for learning.

The eco work carried out at Colby school is innovative, forward-looking and vital for the current generation of young children who will face ever more challenging environmental issues in the future.

For further ideas please click on the links to find out more about online safety, outdoor learning and why you should read with your child every day.

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At Colby School we aim to provide children with opportunities for outdoor play which promotes the development of confidence, co-ordination, well being and strength, through real life first-hand experiences and reasonable risk taking. 




  • To provide a safe and supportive outdoor environment, which encourages children to participate in physical activities providing adventure, personal challenge and enjoyment.


  • To promote social skills such as sharing, turn taking, decision making, co-operation with others, negotiation and fairness.


  • To encourage creativity through using the senses to discover natural materials:  encouraging deeper understandings and appreciation of nature.


  • To promote enjoyment of the natural environment, including gardening and landscaping.   


  • To offer time and space for repetition and elaboration on early patterns of activity for children to modify and extend their own learning.


At Colby School we believe that:


  • Outdoor play is central to young children’s learning.

  • Indoors and outdoors is viewed as one combined and integrated environment.

  • Outdoors receives planning, management, evaluation, resourcing, staffing, and adult interaction on a par with indoors.

  • Outdoors is both a teaching and learning environment.

  • Outdoor design and layout is given careful consideration.

  • The outdoor learning area offers children the opportunity to use effective styles of learning – playing, movement and sensory experience.

  • Children should be given a wide range of open-ended equipment and environments.

  • Children should be able to control, change and modify their environment.

  • Staff time is organised to support children’s learning over time.


Emphasis will be placed on using the outdoor environment as a valuable resource to stimulate and challenge the children as they play and learn. There will be opportunities for the children to enjoy fresh air and develop awareness of seasonal weather changes. 


Research into how the brain works and theories about different learning styles provides convincing evidence of the benefits of developing carefully structured outdoor learning experiences.

The freedom and space of the outdoor environment will afford opportunities for:

  • Imaginative play.

  • Development of spatial awareness.

  • Building skills of control and co-ordination within gross and fine motor activities.

  • Becoming aware of personal safety and the safety of others.

  • Learning to co-operate with others in active play, games and in social play.

  • Taking time to sit and observe others at play.


Staff will consider how best to encourage and support more timid children towards gaining confidence to participate.  By observing the children at play they will also work to develop strategies for channelling the energies of more boisterous children.


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Eco Council

Colby School has an enthusiastic and hard-working Eco Council made up of representatives from each year group, Mrs Sarah Frost (Head of Eco) and a parent helper. Together, they oversee the school’s Eco Policy and ensure that its policies are clearly displayed and carried out in school. 

The Eco Council meets once a week to discuss eco projects and issues, and regularly speaks to classes and at assembly about environmental issues concerning the whole school as well as eco events and activities that are taking place. Members of the Eco Council lead by example, they are responsible for ensuring that all children are aware of the school's eco code and that it is carried out throughout the school. They help devise new initiatives and make decisions on fundraising and what the money raised is spent on.


Eco Code

Our aim is to help the environment by



We believe we should:

• Help younger children to understand about eco

• Encourage everyone else to do what we do at school

• Make food waste useful

• Recycle as much as possible

• Save electricity and water

• Use outside areas as much as possible

• Think about wild animals in our garden

• Encourage people to travel eco-friendly

• Regularly pick litter and remind everyone not to drop litter


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Garden and Plants

Colby School has a large garden where each class has its own raised bed in which they grow flowers and/or fruit and vegetables. There is an outdoor classroom, a polytunnel, willow dome, lots of fruit trees, pond area and herb garden. Harvested produce is sold at the Farmers’ Market or in the playground after school.


Friends of Colby School funded and built a willow dome in the garden where children can play and learn in the shade.


There is a small pond in the garden which attracts a variety of different frogs, toads and newts, insects and other wildlife, and is used for outdoor learning.


The school has a large compost area in the garden where leftover fruit, vegetables and animal bedding are made into compost.

The large playing field attached to the school has a wide variety of trees, mixed species hedgerows, and also incorporates a bee and butterfly garden and a woodland area.


The herb garden is located in the school playground and this allows the children to sit and smell and handle the herbs during break times. We have planted a range of herbs including different types of mint, sage, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, chives, basil, hyssop and rosemary.

Pets and Wildlife

At Colby, children develop an understanding of, and empathy with wildlife around the school garden, pond area and wider grounds. The pupils also learn to look after and nurture the school pets that live in the garden and classrooms. The school has a variety of pets including guinea pigs, gerbils, fish and chickens. 


The children are taught to respect and look after wildlife and wild birds in the school grounds. Food is put out for the birds in winter and the children also carry out a yearly census of bird species that visit the garden. Nesting boxes, log stacks and a bug hotel are also provided.

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The children of Colby School are committed to their ethos to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. They understand that it is their responsibility to make sure the school grounds and surrounding areas are tidy and free of litter. Regular litter picks are made around the school and car park. During the school's annual Eco Week, children collect litter near their homes as part of a ‘Love where you live’ campaign, and sometimes meet in groups at local parks and beaches to ‘clean up’ and raise awareness of littering. 

Eco Council have made a committment to improve the school grounds - keep everywhere tidy and litter free, repair things that are broken and replace as much plastic as possible around the school (e.g. plastic planters, toys, garden equipment) with more environmentally sustainable items. Any new items bought for the garden will be made from natural, sustainable resources or recycled materials.


The children of Colby School are passionate about recycling and, within school, have schemes that collect and recycle paper and card, writing instruments, batteries, crisp packets and, through the Colby Scrapbox initiative, collect materials for arts and crafts projects (such as lollipop sticks, buttons, beads, ribbon, wool, corks, tissue paper, cardboard tubes, plastic lids and bottle tops). Eco Council hold regular book swaps and, in conjunction with Friends of Colby School, hold a Bags2school textile recycling event twice a year. Second hand toys, games, books and clothes are also sold at the Christmas and Summer Fairs. In the school garden, items are recycled or re-purposed as much as possible to create planters, play equipment and habitats for wildlife. In 2020, an entire garden was created at the front entrance to the school from recycled materials.


Eco Week 2017

In 2017, eco week focused on renewable energy. The week began with a trip to The Green Britain Centre for over ninety pupils. Back in the classroom, children studied wind, solar, tidal and hydro-electric power and biofuels. This topic was carried across all disciplines with art, literacy, geography, maths and science projects taking place throughout the week. The children's work was put on public display at the Vattenfall public liaison event at a local Town Hall.  


Eco Week 2018

Issues of food waste, food miles and food packaging was tackled in 2018. After a visit from North Norfolk District Council's recycling department, the children looked at the effects of plastic waste and pollution. The children were offered a food tasting session where they identified some unusual and exotic foods from across the globe and found out where they had come from, calculated food miles and examined carbon footprints of importing so much food from abroad.

Eco Week 2019

In 2019, Eco Week looked at the marine environment both on a global scale and closer to home, with study of a conservation area off Cromer. Classroom activities, field study trips and workshops were held; children created underwater art from waste materials, eco posters about pollution, carried out beach litter picks and took on the waste-free lunchbox challenge.


Farmers' Market

Every Friday in the summer term, Eco Council holds a Farmers' Market on the school field selling produce from the school garden as well as items they have made and donations of plants and produce from parents. Jams, chutneys, fruit crumbles, cordials, fruit pies, eggs, honey, biscuits and cakes are sold to raise money for eco projects.

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Colby Eco Hub

In October 2017, Colby School launched the Colby Eco Hub Project which builds upon Colby’s credentials and reputation as an Eco School. The focus of the project was to set up the school as a centre for environmental learning at a primary education level. 

Over the next ten months, the staff and children worked hard to develop the concept of the Hub with lots of environmental projects, events and activities, including research and workshops carried out alongside renewable energy group Vattenfall. All of this work culminated, in June 2018, with the launch of the Green Energy Outreach Programme. We see the Colby Eco Hub as an opportunity to do something very special at Colby School which will benefit the wider community in years to come. 

Green Energy Outreach Programme

The Green Energy Outreach Programme, in association with Swedish green energy company Vattenfall, was launched in 2018. The aim of this programme was to teach about renewable energy, and in particular wind energy, on a local and global scale, focusing especially on the Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm. Through the programme, children from local Primary schools were invited to attend workshops at Colby, led by our Eco Council, to learn about renewable energy. Writing the presentation and devising the activities has been a true collaboration between the schools’ Eco Council and staff, with technical advice and support from Vattenfall. The children of Colby see this as an important opportunity to share their environmental knowledge and enthusiasm with children from other schools, training them to deliver the activities back in their own settings. Sponsorship from Vattenfall has enabled the equipment that the children use at the workshop to be loaned to schools for this purpose. 

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Eco Schools

Eco-Schools is a global programme engaging millions of children across 67 countries, making it the largest educational programme in the world. For more than 20 years Eco-Schools has been empowering children to drive change. It is geared towards improving their environmental awareness, improving pupils’ skills and the school environment, and also creates financial savings for schools as well as a whole host of other benefits.

Colby School currently holds a Green Flag – the highest award in the Eco Schools programme.

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