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Lessons from Nature

Plymouth experts urge government to knock down classroom walls
Lessons from Nature

Outdoor learning can have a significant positive impact on children’s quality of life but needs to be introduced more formally into the school curriculum, a report from Plymouth University suggests.

Outdoor learning and the curriculum

Children are losing the freedom to play, explore and be active in an age dominated by a full curriculum, busier family lifestyles and an increasingly fearful society, the report says.

According to researcher Sue Waite, this means children are being denied opportunities that could enhance their long-term prospects.

‘At the moment, if outdoor learning is part of a school’s curriculum in England, it is largely because the teachers recognise the value of it.

‘With so much focus on academic attainment, there can be pressure on teachers to stay in the classroom, which means children are missing out on so many experiences that will benefit them throughout their lives.’

Reader in Outdoor Learning at Plymouth University

The report, Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling, highlights the benefits to children of learning in the natural environment, not just from an educational perspective but also in terms of their behaviour, social skills, health and wellbeing, resilience, confidence and sense of place.

The authors show how governments could introduce outdoor learning as an integral element of national education policies.

‘This report shows that although there is significant research which supports outdoor learning for academic as well as social and personal outcomes, it is only by having that recognised by policymakers that we are likely to achieve universal positive cultural change.’

Reader in Outdoor Learning at Plymouth University

The report has been produced by Plymouth University and Western Sydney University following the Lessons from Near and Far international conference led by Plymouth University in July 2015.

‘Take away the walls’

Alexis Bowater, founder of Beach Schools South West, welcomed the report and said outdoor learning should be embedded in the curriculum. The company organises curriculum-linked, beach-based classes for schools across the region.

‘If we want to stop children climbing the walls, we need to take away the walls. If a school says it wants to do a story day on the beach, we’ll create a bespoke programme about pirates and smugglers.

‘We are teaching in Nature’s finest classroom. Outdoor learning benefits not just on an academic level but also socially, emotionally, physically and mentally, and expands horizons.

‘We are also improving the chance that the children will look after their environment in the future.’

Founder of Beach Schools South West

Click here to read the full report, Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling.

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