Improving Wellbeing by Learning Outside the Classroom

Blog post written by Andy Pratt, Head of Group (West) and Wellbeing Lead at Field Studies Council (FSC).

There is increasing research supporting that time in the outdoors and nature connection improves health and wellbeing. At FSC we are all working towards the 2025 vision which has a cross-cutting theme to improve wellbeing running through everything we do.

Rachel Manning, a PhD Researcher at FSC Slapton Ley is providing research and evidence to underpin our approach. The conclusions from the PhD will provide invaluable recommendations to improve the quality of the FSC learning experience.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing is a set of evidence-based public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. They were developed by NEF (the New Economics Foundation). The Five Ways to Wellbeing have been used across the UK since their launch in 2008 and provides a common language for FSC and other organisations to communicate a contribution to wellbeing.

Keep Learning
Learning about urban and natural environments.

Connect
A shared experience. Developing new or better relationships in the outdoors. Seeing others in a different way and meeting new people.

Being Active
Being outdoors in the fresh air, walking and doing practical activity from ecological surveys to adventure activities or conservation.

Take Notice
Being in the natural environment with opportunities for awe and wonder from the smallest creatures to the largest landscapes.

Give
Working together in groups, learning ecological skills and contributing to our sustainable Centres.

At FSC we are pleased to be working alongside YoungMinds, The Sensory Trust and Groundwork UK on Nature Friendly Schools (NFS), a £6.4 million, four-year Department for Education funded project, which was awarded to The Wildlife Trusts.

The project aims to demonstrate and understand how an increase in supported delivery of high-quality activities in natural environments, for pupils in schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils, contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing, engagement with school and other key project outcomes.

We are focussing on six ‘soft outcomes’ for NFS residentials and day visits, which have been informed by the Young Minds Academic Resilience Approach:

  • Developing social skills and teamwork
  • Encourage adventurous play
  • Foster interests
  • Improve problem solving
  • Support children to have fun
  • Support children to find places of calm

We are working on a number of other projects all with an aim to improve wellbeing:

  • Our Bright Future (OBF) – This is a national £33 million programme funded by National Lottery Community Fund and managed by Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. It is a forward-thinking social movement that supports young people to lead progressive change in their communities and local environment.
  • Vision England – This is delivered by Sense which provides residential opportunities at a number of our centres for visually impaired.
  • Growing Confidence – In partnership with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Fordhall Farm. This is a project which aims to build skills and confidence in young people through funded environmental activities.
  • Green Futures – This is hosted by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and involves FSC as delivery partners at FSC Malham Tarn. It includes several strands all developing wellbeing and life skills in young people but particularly the annual Youth Environment Summit, planned, organised and delivered by young people.
  • Green Guardians – This is a part of the Green Futures project that gets young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the outdoors to do various activities.
  • City of Sanctuary Hosting Weekend – Now in the 5th year of involvement for FSC this is a really important weekend involving the local community and refugee families from Leeds. It’s hard to emphasise the impact this has on both the refugee families who attend and the families in the local community who host.

We are continually being shown that wellbeing is in the forefront of educator’s minds. Reports we receive from group leaders after the many residentials which have been subsidised or provided for by our bursary fund and kids fund refer to the benefits and improvement in wellbeing seen in young people.

About the Author
Based in Devon, Andy Pratt is the lead for Health and Wellbeing for Field Studies Council (FSC). He is also responsible for operations of 6 residential FSC Centres in the South West and Wales.
FSC is a charity providing first hand experiences in the outdoors. We want to create a world where everyone feels connected to the environment so they can enjoy the benefits it gives and make choices that help protect it.

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