After 25 years teaching outside the classroom, we absolutely agree. Now more than ever we are increasingly concerned about the physical and emotional well-being of our children and young people, and worried about whether they leave education with the skills and competencies they need for the future, outdoor learning brings a range of benefits which are now widely evidenced, acknowledged and accepted.
The use of outside spaces for teaching is not a new idea and has been part of pedagogical discussions since the 1960’s. Outside spaces can engage pupils in ways classrooms cannot. They have different boundaries, resources, stimuli and opportunities, and enable teachers and pupils to employ and experience different teaching and learning styles. It can deliver the curriculum through creative, contextual activities which not only raise attainment, but also support the development of the whole child, increasing confidence and self-esteem, enhancing social and practical skills, and developing core competencies such as communication, problem solving, leadership, resilience and teamwork. Increasingly schools are realising the potential and opportunities that learning outside the classroom has to offer and are looking to explore and develop such opportunities.
Natural Connections1, (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6636651036540928) a 4-year demonstration project led by the University of Plymouth in the UK, aimed to explore and evidence the impact of learning in the natural environment. The positive impact on children was clear, with 92% of pupils saying they enjoyed their lessons outside, and 89% agreeing they felt happy and healthy during lessons outdoors. Perhaps more unexpected was the impact for teachers, reporting improved professional development, practice, performance, and health and well-being. There are numerous research projects and papers which provide evidence of a wide range of benefits, and many of these can be found on the Institute for Outdoor Learning website www.outdoor-learning-research.org . Outdoor Learning works!
The pathway to raised attainment through outdoor learning1
Many schools have well developed programmes of day trips and residentials, which are extremely valuable and beneficial as evidenced by Learning Away’s Brilliant Residentials project (www.learningaway.org.uk). However, outdoor education is at its most potent when its strands are interwoven with the formal school curriculum, rather than being undertaken as isolated windows within a child’s education. By taking a holistic view of all the learning environments available to us – from school grounds to mountain tops – we can maximise the learning potential of the spaces and our students.
While most schools recognise the benefits of outdoor learning, there may be barriers, some real, some perceived, which potentially stand in the way. Concerns around time, resources, weather, behaviour, ideas, management support, recording evidence…there are many, but most can be overcome so we can enable children to learn outside.
Recognising opportunities and overcoming such barriers will help schools maximise the learning potential of the outdoors, and realise the numerous and wide-ranging benefits. If this sounds like something you would like to do then please get in touch to explore how we can help you.
Let’s get out more, and see the difference it makes.