Outdoor Learning and the Curriculum
I frequently offer Outdoor Learning CPD to schools with many asking for a focus on linking Outdoor Learning to the curriculum. I like to begin this training exploring the value and importance of Outdoor Learning, drawing in quotes like:
“Three quarters of British children spend less time playing outside than the recommended daily period of outdoor exercise for prisoners” Telegraph March 2016
I also highlight that teacher’s must offer opportunities for play, as every child has a 'Right to Play' as defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of a child – article 31. Play opportunities can of course be provided through Outdoor Learning curriculum time, not just play times.
I encourage participants to reflect themselves on the many benefits of Outdoor Learning for the students they work with. Langdale CE Primary School, Cumbria has a lovely page on their website which offers a summary of some of the benefits.
I am in quite a privileged position as though there are many publications, frameworks and linked awards that schools can work through to support and embed outdoor learning, working on the ground with many schools has really allowed me to explore, reflect and evaluate best practise from schools themselves.
I have recently established an ‘Outdoor Learning Network’ with schools that I have worked with over many years that I now know to be ‘leaders’ in relation to Outdoor Learning. Please note that I have purposefully chosen the term ‘Outdoor Learning’ as I strongly believe that all opportunities in the outdoors offer a ‘learning opportunity’. There are of course many different ‘approaches’ to outdoor learning, including ‘Forest School’, ‘Earth Education’, ‘Outdoor Adventurous Activities’ ‘Field Work’ and of course one of my favourites ‘Philosophy for Children (P4C) Outdoors’ to name a few. I also like to surmise outdoor learning in relation to ‘in’, ‘through’ and ‘about’ the outdoors.
(Teachers at Outdoor Learning Network meeting hosted by Langdale CE Primary School)
At our recent meeting we examined different frameworks to support in evidencing the benefits, measuring progression and linking outdoor learning to the curriculum in schools and of course we had a wonderful tour of Langdale CE Primary Schools grounds and did some outdoor learning!
Here are a few resources that might be useful to others
The National Curriculum Outdoors: KS1 – A complete Scheme of work by Deborah Lambert. Michelle Roberts and Sue Waite (2020) KS2 version also available
Messy Maths: A Playful, Outdoor Approach for Early Years by Juliet Robertson (2017)
Dirty Teaching: A beginner’s guide to learning outdoors by Juliet Robertson (2014)
101 Playground Games: A collection of active and engaging playtime games for children by Therese Hoyle (2021)
Planning and progression frameworks that support Outdoor Learning:
Emma Littlewood from Grayrigg CE School, Cumbria has very kindly made freely available a document she has developed to measure progression in Forest School, linking this to the curriculum.
Of course there are lots of websites with activities linking outdoor learning to curriculum areas, including Learning through Landscapes.
We also examined the ‘Tree Skills Passport’ developed by Langdale CE Primary School.
I have certainly seen a greater focus on Outdoor Learning over recent years, with many schools I work with having fantastic creative curriculums. This of course does not happen over night and taking small steps, like the aim of one curriculum linked lesson outdoors a week could be the starting point and catalyst to much bigger things. There are of course grants out there to support, please do get in touch to find out more and watch this space for more sharing from the Outdoor Learning Network!
Many thanks to the schools involved in the network: