Outdoor Learning - natural default

Outdoor learning? What? Learning outdoors? Now that's a thought! My friend sent me a link to the article in The Guardian yesterday entitled "Scotland eyes outdoor learning as model for reopening schools". I was so happy to see Stramash mentioned too. I visited Stramash outdoor nursery last May with a group of pupils who weren't sitting enough exams to qualify for study leave. We were looking at positive destinations. However, what I took away with me from that visit has stayed with me for the past year. A passion and a vision. I was forced to rethink what we are currently providing for children and how we could do better, in primary and secondary schools. Colleagues have been questioning my 'mad idea', that young people should learn outdoors, for the past year. Mostly because indoor learning is what we're used to. I've been wondering for the past year whether risk assessments should be created for "imprisoning" kids indoors. My heart bleeds for them when I see them sitting behind desks during the few hours sunlight we get in the Winter months and sitting at desks in the Spring, on the ocassions when it's sunny outside. We should default to outside learning , not be generating red tape, limitations and restrictions for going outside! Restricting access to vitamin D in a Northern hemisphere country where we lack a lot of sunshine in the Winter months can lead to problems with health and wellbeing. Indoors is a well known breeding ground for germs, leading to frequent staff and pupil absence. It's my vision and 2 year plan for primary and secondary to be taught outside. Appropriate clothing, suitable land and large open sided barns would be a positive step in the right direction. Outdoor educators would work alongside teaching staff and support assistants, along with mental health workers. We would be integrated under the one sky. Not segmented as currently is the practice. There would be less need for mental health workers as the staff feel supported and work well with the pupils in the new environment. Positive mental health strategies will permeate the system. Scandinavian countries have great examples of this in practice, alongside schools in New Zealand and Canada. A Montessori school in Edinburgh has recently advertised for outdoor space for their new teen hub. A sure sign that an established system is working well and is a growth area. Pupils and staff would learn from one another. EF basic first aid, water safety skills etc. Personal and professional development would happen at the same time for pupils and staff, not be an add on situation. Staff can develop qualifications to further allow them to assess other staff in similar outdoor environment settings if they were to be able to gain SQA accreditation for this purpose. The school, by cascading and sharing knowledge and skills, alongside providing social enterprise activities within the community would help towards self-funding. When staff and pupils raise money for things, they are valued much more. This would be a sustainable system, in my opinion. Pupils would volunteer in the community, they would support and be supported by the community for projects where they could pitch their ideas to more experienced citizens and gain valuable feedback. School would become a place where children do learn from mistakes, they can fail, but they can be supported to work and generate the skills they need to succeed. Individual used learning would be achievable on this system, along with personalisation and choice where pupils sign up to learn outdoor activities and subject areas. ICT, using Google Classroom and online forums would mean any essential written work and theory could be done at home, or the child could be supported to do this after activities. At least half the day, every day would be given to outdoor activities, learning whilst doing. Weather should not be a factor that prevents us. It should be the reason we do this.

Why the contribution is important

Improves Mental health and wellbeing Confidence Communication Skills Personal risk assessment Supports Local businesses The community Social enterprises Pupils Parents Staff Builds A sense of purpose A value system Resilience Citizenship Independence Creativity Immunity Vitamin D levels (naturally) Reduces Obesity Suicide rates Mental health problems Physical health problems Foster's and embraces Relationships A love of the natural world Conscientious citizens Saves money and time Heating/lighting Building maintenance Security Wages Admin Risk assessments Considering the suicide rate for example in Iceland and the UK, the benefits of an outdoor education would reduce this high level. Folk won't have to be told by a doctor to go and ride a bike to feel better, that will be their go-to decision.

by MarieMeldrum on May 11, 2020 at 02:16PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.6
Based on: 12 votes


  • Posted by batzzz May 11, 2020 at 14:23

    Love the idea and appreciate the wide range of benefits. Would work more easily with a rethink of our whole approach to formal education and current expectations of delivery styles and participation.
  • Posted by Stargazer1960 May 11, 2020 at 14:38

    I love outdoor education for all age groups. Supervision and social distancing will still remain a hazard and the ability to hand wash and/or use hand sanitizer must be part of the risk assessment
  • Posted by NatalieWhite May 11, 2020 at 14:53

    There is another Outdoor Learning thread …! Outdoor Learning provides pupils the opportunity to engage in meaningful and relevant learning in their school grounds, natural greenspaces and wider communities. When undertaken properly using sound pedagogical approaches, pupils can connect with self, others and the environment. There are health benefits of being more physically active, better mental health as well as better eyesight (research to support all these can be found : https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/ea/learningoutdoorssupportteam/useful-research/ ) They develop deep learning and a wealth of skills in addition to the learning of facts and figures. Approximately 75% of school estates are outdoor spaces, these can be adapted to include growing areas in addition to learning spaces for ALL curriculum areas. There is local greenspace within 500m of every school in Scotland so with very little resourcing pupils can be accessing and utilising these spaces to learn. Learning for Sustainability and a greater understanding and working knowledge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is easily taught when in the outdoor environment, links to our impact on the world around us is embedded in the very essence of being outside. The research, policy and support for Outdoor Learning is available, there are many great partners, local authorities and networks like SAPOE who can assist in making OL a real solution to returning pupils and teachers to schools. The Curriculum Outdoors Attainment Challenge funded by Scottish Attainment Challenge has been in place for four years in East Ayrshire, it teaches curriculum outcomes and experiences outdoors, all day, every day. https://education.gov.scot/improvement/practice-exemplars/sac87-curriculum-outdoors-attainment-challenge
  • Posted by GMPotts May 11, 2020 at 16:06

    Scotland already has a national network of outdoor learning practitioners. Our Countryside Rangers work in many urban and rural locations all across Scotland. In a 2017 survey 68,578 learners from Nursery age to undergraduate, engaged with Countryside Rangers supporting the Curriculum for Excellence statement that "all children are entitled to outdoor learning experiences". Our Country, Regional and National Parks are geared up to support educational visits - not just environmental education- any and all topics can be covered by arrangement. Countryside Rangers are a national resource for all learners and I would recommend that due Government priority is attached to developing and enhancing this service for the benefit of the current and future generations of outdoor learners.
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