In a ‘normal’ year our Outdoor Learning team engages with thousands of primary school children (as well as many University students) to support the curriculum and really bring subjects to life.
Learning outside gives pupils an opportunity to break out of their typical ‘roles’ within the class. Our sessions are active, provide a change of scene, allow experiential learning and present the opportunity for exploration. For a lot of children, it’s a rare chance to actually experience nature, fresh air and weather, and enjoy learning in a totally different and memorable way.
The past year has been different of course; but we made the best of it and worked in school grounds where we could, and managed to engage with nature even in the most urban schools. Another advantage of outdoor learning is that it’s a very good way to make room for social distancing!
Even when schools closed and educational trips were cancelled, our fabulous team wanted to continue engaging with children, creating loads of Nature Adventures videos and activities to help children (and adults) to take an interest in the wild world around them. We talked to a key member of the team to discover what makes them so passionate about their work!
“I just love being outside with the kids” says Outdoor Learning Officer Sarah Lamb. “I don’t know who’s happier to be there, them or me!”
I’m greeted by 30 smiling faces, all excited to be brought out to the woods on a big adventure, which they have no idea is educational. We know not every child thrives in a classroom environment, some need to be doing, moving and experiencing the subject for it to sink in and make sense. If they can have lots of fun at the same time, all the better to sneak the learning in – they are children after all!
They are as amazed at the tiny creatures they find in the woods, as they are delighted that I let them build dens or have a camp fire. Our aim is to give children a positive experience outside, engaging with the natural world, all in the hope that they will value it and go on to protect it throughout their lives. The support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us achieve that.
I have worked with so many schools, often in very urban, deprived areas of Sheffield and Rotherham, where school grounds are a concrete yard, and it is clear to me that they don’t experience nature with their family or at school. These groups are really special to me; the children are genuinely in awe of the most basic things, such as learning that an acorn turns into an oak tree, or how many creatures live under a rock, or even that they are allowed to touch things they are told are ‘dirty’, like leaves and sticks. I think experiencing our sessions has a big impact on these children, and provides the much needed first step on their journey to improving their own well-being and caring about the environment too.
“The future of our existence on this planet depends on our global action, but I worry that if children right now don’t form any kind of connection to nature, they are unlikely to be moved to protect it.”
Our outdoor learning is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery