The evidence is clear – getting children outdoors is fantastic for their health, wellbeing and learning and can set them on a pathway to happy, healthy and environmentally sustainable lifestyles.
Schools are community gateways to enable these opportunities for all children, yet in an average month around 8% of school age children in England get out of their classrooms into greenspaces* (ie. exploring a local park or farm, or going on a trip to a National Park). Furthermore, children from the most affluent families were almost twice as likely to visit the natural environment with their schools as those in poorer families.
All the teachers surveyed in a national insight study recognised the benefits of taking lessons outdoors and wanted to do more. Defra, Natural England and Historic England funded a 4-year demonstration project Natural Connections, delivered by Plymouth University, to respond to these findings and to test and evaluate new ways of providing local, independent support to schools and teachers to stimulate both the demand from schools for cross-curricular outdoor learning activities and the supply of new and inspiring learning resources to meet that demand.
Natural Connections aimed to increase the number of school children, particularly from disadvantaged communities, able to experience the full range of benefits that come from learning in local natural environments.Four years later the Natural Connections Project is now nearly at an end.
Our last task is to share all our learning with you ! So we will be posting a series of infographics here in the coming months for you to get an sneak preview of what will come in the final report. (To be published in July)
The project is keen to share the learning as widely as possible, so please share the infographics via your networks to help raise the profile of outdoor learning in schools.
In this first image we outline the aims and design of the project model.
*HUNT, A., STEWART, D., BURT, J. & DILLON, J. 2016. Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: a pilot to develop an indicator of visits to the natural environment by children – Results from years 1 and 2 (March 2013 to February 2015). Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number208.