“Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a way of teaching” claims a recent summary of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project (2012 to 2016) funded by Defra, Natural England and Historic England, and delivered by Plymouth University.
Building on prior work at King’s College London, it highlights the significant benefits of learning in the natural environment. For example, the first King’s report noted:
- better educational attainment;
- development of natural science skills and environmental awareness;
- improved health, social cohesion and attitudes to other children;
- better school staff morale.
While the second analysed the evidence on the barriers to learning in natural environments.
This confirmed that schools are not prioritising (valuing) learning in natural environments and found that this is largely down to local issues such as teacher confidence, competence and capacity. Furthermore it stated that these local barriers underpin – and hence are more significant than – the barriers the sector has traditionally focused on such formalisation in the Curriculum, fear of litigation and cost.
The latest report shows the “Natural Connections local delivery model” focuses on:
- Establishing sustainable outdoor learning in schools through a whole school approach
- Tailored support to meet the needs, priorities and challenges of individual schools
- Enabling schools to use outdoor learning themselves as part of everyday teaching
- Impartial and independent support through the hub leader model. The coordinating role of hub leaders with strong, local educational networks, supported by school-based outdoor learning leads, was critical to effective delivery of the project.
- Low cost, using school grounds and local green spaces.
Find out more at the Natural Connections link.