Surrey Downs School

Bush school helps students cover the curriculum and connect with nature

In 2018 Surrey Downs R-7 School teacher Krystal Pryor started taking her year 2/3 class down the street to Greenway Reserve, a public space owned by City of Tea Tree Gully. She would document the students’ learning through videos and photos out on site, and it soon became clear that there were strong curriculum outcomes for almost every subject area, simply through providing an unstructured learning time outdoors.

A teacher kneels beside students in high vis vests to show them a plant

The following year, she implemented weekly bush school visits at the reserve with the Year 5/6 class. Having already seen the rich learning that could take place, she planned set tasks and inquiry questions to maximise opportunities for student learning. Parents regularly comment that bush school is their child’s favourite day of the week, which is evident in that they choose to spend time there after school and on weekends too. Students also regularly take garbage bags down to the creek to collect dumped rubbish, and since they have started to do this, they have noticed a reduction in the amount of waste dumped there.

How has the bush school helped to cover the curriculum?


  • Measuring and building structures such as bridges and climbing frames, testing and investigating them to ensure integrity before use

  • Interpreting and representing information about the reserve in mathematical language including area, shape and measurement

  • Calculating the numbers of different species present

  • Recording and analysing numerical data about water quality over time.


  • Building on descriptive vocabulary when describing and observing the space

  • Write about their experiences, including descriptive, reflective and persuasive texts.


  • Improving understandings of adaptations in living things through observation

  • Finding evidence of what living things exist in the area, such as holes in the leaves of some plants which indicate that small insects or caterpillars have been there.

  • Regularly using go-pro cameras to film what the students notice during bush school and record conversations which can then be followed up in class.


Weaving the concepts of continuity and change, interconnections, and roles, rights and responsibilities through the work at the reserve by considering:

  • How does the creek change over time? How does the vegetation change according to season and other factors?

  • What plants can we find here and how do they support and interact with animals?

  • What actions can we take to care for the reserve? How do we encourage others?

Health and PE (Yr 5&6)

  • Applying rules fairly and behave ethically when participating in different physical activities

  • Listening actively and thoughtfully to others’ views and concepts e.g. when working together to find safe ways to cross the creek.

Leadership has been very supportive of the outdoor learning focus and at the beginning of the bush school project, invited their NRM Education officer to deliver a 2 hour PD to all staff on linking outdoor learning to the curriculum. Since then, there has been a renewed interest in this approach and teachers have been creative and enthusiastic in coming up with new approaches.