Outdoor learning: Most difficult breakthrough already made

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When I look back on my childhood it seems like one big open air experience. From making mud pies as a toddler to climbing trees as a teenager, the great outdoors was one of the great pillars of my early life. It was definitely something I came to rely on for health and recreation, plus a considerable amount of education as well.

That is why I feel sad when I hear about today’s children not getting out-and-about to anywhere near the same extent I did. It seems unnatural somehow. In my humble opinion, outdoor activity is fundamental to maturing into a balanced, well rounded individual. And apparently I’m not alone in thinking this.

Children learning outside the classroomJust take OFSTED for example; they’re the people who inspect schools and colleges to make sure our kids are getting a decent education. In an influential 2008 report entitled ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ OFSTED said: ‘When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.’

Because of this, OFSTED recommended that schools and colleges adopt the following measures:

‘Ensure that their curriculum planning includes sufficient well structured opportunities for all learners to engage in learning outside the classroom as a key, integrated element of their experience.

Valuate the quality of learning outside the classroom to ensure that it has maximum impact on learners’ achievement, personal development and well-being.

Ensure equal and full access for all learners to learning outside the classroom by monitoring participation in activities by different groups of learners and removing any barriers.’

Now, I totally understand that children from inner city areas get fewer opportunities to get connect with nature than children from more rural areas. It’s just a fact of modern life. But at least through the guidance of OFSTED, schools and colleges are waking up to the value of learning outside the classroom and providing suitable opportunities.

Children learning outside the classroomI pleased to say that I increasingly come into contact with teachers, governors and also parents who are striving for their school or college to meet objectives for learning outside the classroom so that students can receive the benefits.

And although we’re not there yet, at least we have made great strides in recognising the inadequacy of what was the status quo. As a result, the most difficult breakthrough has already been made, and it is only the challenge of implementation that now remains.

Do you think learning outside the classroom is important? Should schools and colleges be investing in more of these opportunities? Perhaps you think it is just an excuse for students to skive. Please let us know your thoughts below.

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