Learning outdoors more engaging, says Scottish Natural Heritage
According to the report by Scottish Natural Heritage when teachers bring their children into the outdoors their learning is more enjoyable, challenging, active and collaborative.
In Scotland the Curriculum for Excellence has seen an increase in outdoor learning in schools and pre-schools. This is Fantastic news and in the survey of nursery, primary and secondary schools it is reported that over 1000 outdoor lessons are led outdoors.
The study suggests that there is a great opportunity to visit local green places to give children time outdoors, areas like parks, gardens, wildlife areas and woodland. It was found that these visits increased children’s engagement and enriched the learning experience no end.
Greg Mannion, a report authors at the University of Stirling, said: “Our study shows that randomly sampled nurseries, primaries and secondaries are now providing more outdoor learning on average than in 2006, but what pupils get varies a lot from school to school and schools in deprived areas are offering noticeably less time outdoors.”
In nurseries, the vast majority of time outdoors was in the grounds, with only occasional trips made further afield. Primary schools increased outdoor learning, especially in school grounds and by going on more residential trips. Pupils in secondary schools have had only slightly increased provision since 2006 but appear to have less opportunity to learn in local areas or in the grounds.
SNH Chairman, Ian Ross said: “This is the second time that such a comprehensive study has been carried out in Scotland. It’s clear that there’s a positive trend and it shows that teaching outside, especially in green areas, benefits our children – it’s not just a lot of fun but it helps them learn. The challenge for those of us working in this area is to find ways to help schools and nurseries – particularly those in deprived areas – get out more and make the most of the benefits nature can bring.”
“Across Scotland, through Curriculum for Excellence, early learning and childcare centres and schools are providing children and young people with more opportunities to learn outdoors. This is having a positive impact on learners, increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and personal achievement. Learners are more engaged which in turn creates better challenge and enjoyment.
Suzanne Hargreaves is the Senior Education Officer for Health and Wellbeing and Outdoor Learning at Education Scotland and supports the report findings, but recognises that schools and nurseries will have to plan and manage outdoor learning visits.
“Whilst these findings are positive we have some challenges ahead. Greater provision is required, particularly in secondary schools in order to capitalise fully on outdoor learning of all kinds, including residential experiences. Schools in areas of deprivation also face challenges in providing this type of learning. We will continue to work with schools and outdoor learning organisations to support practitioners in realising and capitalising on the benefits of outdoor learning, and to help ensure these opportunities are open to all learners across Scotland.”
The report was commissioned by partners Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Education Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority and Keep Scotland Beautiful and written by the University of Stirling