Outdoor Learning Support

Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto

Outdoor learning is a key part of many educational environments. The Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto is based on the belief that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.

Benefits of outdoor education

There is proven evidence that good quality learning outside the classroom adds value to traditional classroom-based learning. It can lead to improved retention rates and a deeper understanding of subjects that are frequently difficult to teach effectively using classroom methods alone.

Outdoor learning provides a context for understanding many areas, including general and subject-based knowledge; thinking and problem-solving skills, and life skills such as co-operation and interpersonal communication.

Learning outside the classroom also provides a powerful route to the ‘Every Child Matters’ outcome, in particular, enjoying and achieving, staying safe and healthy. Much learning outside the classroom will take place as part of programmes that support personalised learning and complement the strategy for young people as set out in ‘Youth Matters’.

Why use outdoor learning in your school?

  • A study by Bethel learning institute found that pupil retention rates were on average 5% following a lesson but rose to 75% when they learnt through practical activities.
  • Hard, technical subjects like maths and the sciences come alive when using different environments for study sessions.
  • Experimenting together in small teams helps develop interpersonal skills, improve problem solving techniques, language development and creative thinking.
  • Nurturing new life whether it is a seed, plant, tree, or an insect helps to instil a sense of achievement and a healthy respect for the environment.
  • Working on practical projects together helps students learn and cooperate and communicate with each other.

OFSTED – the importance of learning outside the classroom

OFSTED reveals that pupils’ participation and engagement can benefit significantly from activities outside the classroom. In a sample of schools visited, the report found that well-planned activities not only enhance pupils’ learning but can also re-engage those who are hard to motivate. And whilst some schools are deterred by health and safety, workload and financial concerns, the report shows that schools which have curricular provision classed as ‘outstanding’ or ‘improving’ have overcome these barriers. For more details, visit www.ofsted.gov.uk

Additional evidence

Evidence in support of LOtC (Learning Outside the Classroom) in raising attainment and improving the depth of understanding and improving the quality of teaching.

Nundy, S (2001) Raising achievement through the environment: the case for fieldwork and field centres.
Reinforcement between the affective and cognitive outcomes which resulted in students being able to access higher levels of learning was reported.

Positive impact on long-term memory was identified, due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting as well as affective benefits of the residential experience (e.g. improvements in social skills). There was reinforcement between affective and cognitive outcomes which resulted in students being able to access higher levels of learning.

“Residential fieldwork is capable not only of generating positive cognitive and affective learning amongst students, but this may be enhanced significantly compared to that achievable within a classroom environment.”

“Fieldwork in new and unfamiliar surroundings creates events and images that significantly enhance long term memory recall, knowledge and understanding.”

Opinion Matters survey on behalf of TUI Travel PLC, 2010.
99% teachers agreed that children are more animated and engaged when learning outside the classroom

NFER TeacherVoice survey 2010.
70% teachers said LOtC is more effective than classroom teaching in engaging different learning styles. 77% teachers said LOtC is more effective than classroom teaching in motivating and enthusing children with regard to learning.

Malone, K. (2008) Every Experience Matters.
Children engaged in LOtC achieve higher scores in class tests, have greater levels of physical fitness and motor skills development, increased confidence, self-esteem, show leadership qualities, are socially competent and more environmentally responsible.

Ofsted (2008) Learning Outside of the Classroom – How far should you go?
“Learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development and also contributed to the quality and depth of learning.”

Passy, R., Morris, M., and Reed, F. (2010) Impact of School Gardening on Learning.
Outcomes from involving pupils in school gardening: “Greater scientific knowledge and understanding; enhanced literacy and numeracy, including the use of a wider vocabulary and greater oracy skills; increased awareness of the seasons and understanding of food production.”

Rickinson, M et al (2004) A review of research on outdoor learning.
“Substantial evidence exists to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom.”

Cowell, D. & Watkins, R. (2007), Get out of the classroom to study climate change – the ‘Spring Bulbs for Schools’ project.
The museum outreach programme involved setting up 160 monitoring sites. Students became ‘aware of the world around them and the idea that human activity can have noticeable effects, even on a local scale in the school garden’. ‘The project enabled [students] to undertake pattern-seeking and observational activities – aspects of scientific enquiry that are often underdeveloped throughout the science curriculum’.