This free booklet aims to provide school staff with a compelling introduction to the value and impact of well-planned regular outdoor learning for pupils, teachers and schools as a whole. It sets out the evidence for outdoor learning and shows how schools and their staff can overcome challenges to outdoor learning, and embed it into their policy and practice. Outdoor learning can cost very little, and yet can help schools achieve their priorities in ways that engage children with learning.
Natural Connections was a four year project (2012 to 2016) funded by Defra, Natural England and Historic England, and delivered by Plymouth University. Existing research on the barriers to and the benefits of learning outside the classroom in natural environments (referenced in this booklet as outdoor learning) was used to develop and test more effective ways to provide local support to schools and teachers to enable outdoor learning.
The project has shown that high quality, local independent support can be very effective in establishing outdoor learning in schools and in making a real contribution to achieving school priorities. The project’s scale has also enabled it to add significantly to the evidence on outdoor learning and its positive outcomes for pupils, teachers and schools.
Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a way of teaching. Natural Connections has shown that it’s possible for school grounds and local greenspaces to be used daily to enhance teaching and learning right across the curriculum, and to deliver a wide range of associated benefits, including promoting children’s social and emotional skills and their engagement with learning.
The project also found that the major challenges to outdoor learning, such as staff confidence in teaching outside and uncertainty how to deliver the curriculum through outdoor learning, can be overcome by enabling teachers and schools to work with and learn from each other.
‘You kind of tend to work better outside because you are more relaxed…you are not stuck in the same place, you are able to move around, you are able to experience different things using your senses.’ (Pupil)
‘Every single subject in the curriculum has been delivered outside….the benefits are massive in terms of student motivation, student behaviour and teacher motivation and our involvement in the Natural Connections Project over the past 4 years has cost the school less than we spend on tea and coffee!’ (Assistant Head)
‘We try to look at learning as something pupils enjoy, and they absolutely love outdoor learning and enjoy it. And when you get enjoyment, you get enthusiasm and you get raised results. So it’s a win-win!’ (Teacher)
This booklet makes a strong case for outdoor learning and hopes to provide schools and school networks with the starting points that might enable more schools to develop their own plans for outdoor learning.
Download the pdf here: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/oelres-net/transforming