Outdoor learning, within Learning for Sustainability, is already embedded in CfE, in our GTCS professional standards and in school inspections. Learning in the outdoors can make significant contributions to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.
In order to enhance the outdoor aspect of the curriculum and comply with the most recent government guidelines there are a number of ways Outdoor Learning can support education and build a richer curriculum within the refreshed CfE narrative.
Below you will find links to a host of guidance and support resources, including a growing bank of practical lessons for teaching CfE outdoors.
1. The Importance of the Outdoors as an approach to learning
Learning Outdoors complements and extends classroom based learning and can also be used to promote wider achievement. The outdoor environment has proven benefit for learning by giving relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors. We know that children and young people are more likely to be engaged in learning outdoors, not only will this raise attainment, it will help them make connections experientially, therefore facilitating their development into confident and responsible citizens.
The benefits of active and outdoor learning in terms of education, physical and mental health & wellbeing, are well documented and will have a long-term positive impact on pupils, families, staff and the wider school community. We can capitalise on learners’ potential to develop as they experience new challenges.
Entitlement – Education Scotland’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning’ set out a vision for all schools and educational settings to provide frequent and progressive outdoor learning opportunities which are clearly part of the curriculum. These opportunities need to be regular and sustainable.
Safety – The outdoor learning space naturally facilitates room for physical distancing of both staff and pupils, reducing airborne and surface transmission risk of infection. A move from a ‘classroom‘ to a ‘learning space’ model for CfE delivery, enables physical distancing alongside high quality learning and teaching both in school grounds, local spaces, and home environments.
School Estates – On average over 50% of a school estate is outdoors, in many cases these environments are not yet being maximised to their proven potential. Outdoor learning space naturally lends itself to becoming a high-quality teaching space that can be utilised or transformed relatively quickly and at reasonably low cost.
Engagement in Learning – The outdoor environment has proven benefit for learning by giving relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors, including opportunities for study in the local, natural and built environments. We know that children and young people are more likely to be engaged in learning outdoors, not only will this raise attainment, it will help them make connections experientially, therefore facilitating their development into confident and responsible citizens.
Health & Wellbeing – The benefits of active and outdoor learning in terms of education, physical and mental wellbeing, are well documented and will have a long-term positive impact on pupils, families, staff and the wider school community. We can capitalise on learners’ potential to develop as they experience new challenges.
Life-long Skills & Attitudes – The outdoor environment encourages skills such as problem solving and negotiating risk. Learning outdoors contributes to our National objective of ‘creating a more successful country’ in that it facilitates children and young people becoming:
- healthier – learning outdoors can lead to lifelong recreation;
- safer & stronger – outdoor activities can span social divisions and provide opportunities to assess and manage risk;
- greener – the outdoor environment is the ideal setting to promote understanding of global sustainability issues;
- wealthier & fairer – the outdoor environment offers opportunities for leadership, and allows children and young people to showcase a wide range of skills and abilities which are not always visible in the classroom, in turn increasing engagement and raising attainment.
Interdisciplinary Learning – With an innovative, responsive and flexible approach to learning and teaching, a significant part of the curriculum can be taught outdoors. New technologies will add further value by allowing learners to review and share their outdoor learning experiences.
Outdoor Learning Research Benefits – here
Outdoor Education Centres Fit for the Future (issued 14 Aug 2020) – here
2. Advice and support from ELC Outdoor Learning Service
All programmes for Young People can be found here
Safety – continue to provide advice about safe practice of all aspects of outdoor learning. All advice is based on the SG Guidance, SG ‘Going Out There’ framework, NGB guidelines and ELC guidance, including advice on risk assessments and ratios.
School Improvement Planning – advice on how to develop an outdoor progressive programme, through CfE delivery, specifically focusing on Numeracy, Literacy and Health & wellbeing.
School Ground / Local Area advice – advice on how to maximise the use of school grounds, community and local green-spaces to facilitate learning whilst physical distancing restrictions remain in place. Advice on accessing green-space within walking distance of all schools across East Lothian – including the safest routes to access these.
Delivery to pupils- advice on what activities would be appropriate for a given learning intention to teach in the outdoors complementing classroom work, and the logistics of delivering high quality teaching safely and confidently.
Additional Support Needs – help with planning and adaptation of learning activities to ensure access for ALL, inclusion and equity whilst maintaining a whole class approach.
Care-experienced / Vulnerable/ Disengaged / Challenging Young People – outdoor learning is an approach often used with these young people to re-engage them with education and or develop skills for work. East Lothian has a pool of associate outdoor instructors and supply teaching staff ready to take on projects of this kind.
When planning and presenting new ways of working remember a classroom does not need to have walls. The outdoors is an approach to learning which can be incorporated at appropriate times into every area of the curriculum. Consider using alternative terminology:
A move from ‘classroom’ to ‘learning space’
A move from ‘Outdoor Activity’ to ‘Outdoor Lesson’
A move from ‘Outdoor Learning’ to ‘Learning Outdoors’
e.g. Learning numeracy outdoors
3. East Lothian Council Guidance
ELC Guidance – Safety and Good Practice in Managing Off Site Visits – here
School Visits, Wider Achievement & Equity – here
All Generic Risk Assessments for Off Site Visits (and an editable template) – here
EduHub – School Visits Forms & Guidance – here
EVOLVE – Visit Planning and Approval online form – here
Wild Camping Guidance – here
Sample Adventure Activities Letter to Parents – here
Sample Bikeability Letter to Parents – here
4. Scottish Government Guidance
The Scottish Government has produced a framework for safe practice in Off Site Visits
Going Out There: Scottish Framework for Safe Practice in Off Site Visits – here
5. Education Scotland Guidance
Education Scotland’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning’ has set out a vision for all schools and educational settings to provide frequent and progressive outdoor learning opportunities which are clearly part of the curriculum. These opportunities need to be regular and sustainable.
*HMIE Report* Successful Approaches to Learning Outdoors – here
A summary of Outdoor Learning Resources – here
E’s & O’s Outside – here
Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning – here
Learning For Sustainability (LfS) – here
HGIOS 4 has specific references to OL & LfS – here
SCOTLAND’S revised CfE Putting learners at the heart of Education – here
more… Outdoor Learning in the National Improvement Hub – here
6. Other National Outdoor & Off Site Visit Guidance
HSE – Risk & Outdoor Learning – here
Fire Guidance – SAPOE (Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education) – here
Fire Guidance – Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland – here
Loose Parts Play – here
Early Years – My world Outdoors, Care Inspectorate Guidance – here
Early Years – Space to Grow: Early learning, childcare and out of school care services: design guidance – here
7. Networks for Outdoor Learning
There is already a wide network of outdoor professionals throughout Local Authorities & Independent schools who form SAPOE (Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education), whose role is to advise, support & deliver Outdoor Learning. East Lothian is also part of the NNOL (National Network of Outdoor Learning), made up of organisations including representatives from Government, Councils, professional bodies, schools and the third sector, who support and deliver Outdoor Learning across Scotland.
ELLO (East Lothian Learning Outdoors) is East Lothian’s networking group for communication, sharing best practice and maximising the potential for learning outdoors. If you would like to represent your school on ELLO then please email email@example.com with your details.
8. Staff Training / CLPL – Outdoor Learning
Online and face to face training will enhance staff competence, build confidence and encourage creativity. New and adapted modular courses are available both locally and nationally.
Two of the key initial OL training modules can be found here
All OL training courses can be found here ELC OLS Training Courses – open to all
9. Awards & Certification
The following awards are delivered and supported by the Outdoor Learning Service across East Lothian Council primary and secondary schools. A number of them can be used to deliver SQCF points:
Awards that encompass outdoor sport skills :
- Hi5 Awards – Summary Info here
- Youth Achievement Awards – Summary Info here
- Dynamic Youth Awards – Summary Info here
- John Muir Award
- Saltire Award
- Junior Award Scheme for Schools
- Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
- Mini Duke & Junior Duke
Outdoor Sports, Skill Specific Awards:
- National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme
- British Canoeing Paddle Awards – Start and Discover
- National Navigation Award Scheme – Navigator Bronze, Silver & Gold Awards (any age)
- National Navigation Award Scheme – Outdoor Discovery Award (any age)
- Orienteering Young Leader Award (14-19yrs)
- Mountain Training Hill and Mountain Skills (10+)
- Play on Pedals
- Bikeability Scotland
- Go Mountain Bike (GoMTB)
10. Resources to Purchase & School Grounds Advice
Following contain links to suppliers of recommended equipment and books:
11. Teaching Resources – Outdoor Learning Lessons
Below you’ll find links to quality teaching ideas and resources to minimise the ‘prep’ time for school staff.
- Just for ELC – Note these are only accessible to ELC education staff – you need to be logged in to your Edubuzz account to access. Please don’t request access – just ensure you are logged into your Edubuzz account and you will see it!
- ELC Outdoor Learning Service Outdoor Learning Lesson ideas – a Google Drive full of outdoor lessons for early years, primary and secondary
- OL Lesson Plan Programme – Numeracy – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels Numeracy lessons outdoors
- OL Lesson Plan Programme – Literacy – Lesson plans, CfE Es, Os and activities to deliver a progressive block of First and Second Levels Literacy lessons outdoors
- ELC Outdoor Learning Service e-Learning – all our e-learning category of blog posts on our Edubuzz website
- Water Safety Resources – here
12. Thought provoking Outdoor Learning related short videos
Some videos worth watching to make us think about Learning Outdoors
Could you be suffering from ‘plant blindness’? – video
13. Case Studies & Practitioner Enquiry – Outdoor Learning
What can be done with out of the box thinking?…
Institute for Outdoor Learning Research Site