Over recent years there has developed a strategic desire to encourage and support children (especially through schools) to experience the natural environment through learning outside the classroom.  The Natural Environment White Paper (2011) (1), includes a government ambition ‘to see every child in England given the chance to experience and learn about the natural environment’.  It specifically sets out 4 key reforms to education, one of which is ‘action to get more children learning outdoors, removing barriers and increasing schools abilities to teach outdoors’.

 

A recent report by Kings College, London (2) highlighted significant benefits to learning outside the classroom including better educational attainment, development of natural science skills and environmental awareness, improved health, social cohesion and attitudes to other children and better school staff morale.  It further adds that ‘outdoor learning activities such as those that take place in school gardens make core subjects rich and relevant and get students excited about learning’.  Specifically, children perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies and show greater motivation for studying science.  All key curriculum targets for schools that Learn Out There Ltd will support through structured activities.

 

Another recent report (3) analysed evidence to the barriers of achieving these aims, confirming 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’.  Worse still, children in urban environments are particularly disadvantaged (4).  Learn Out There Ltd can bring this specialist knowledge and enthusiasm in to the school environment to overcome these barriers.

 

These findings have also been highlighted by The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)(2008) in that ‘learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development’ (5).  The culmination of these findings resulted in OFSTED recommending that schools should ‘ensure that all pupils have access to out-of-classroom learning to support their understanding of the need to care for their environment and to promote their physical and mental well-being’(6).  Learn Out There Ltd  will provide a service that supports schools in their endeavours to achieve these OFSTED recommendations.

 

REFERENCES

(1). Natural Environment White Paper .(2011).  Secretary of State for Environment, food and Rural Affairs.

(2), (4) Dillon, J. (2011).  Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments.  Kings College London.

(3). Dillon, J. (2010).  Beyond barriers to learning outside the classroom in natural environments.  Kings College London.

(5). OFSTED. (2008).  Learning outside the classroom.  How far should you go?

(6). OFSTED. (2009).  Education for sustainable development. Improving schools-improving lives.