Making Outdoor Learning Work – Rooted Forest’s Top 5 Tips!


Our friends at Rooted Forest have shared their top 5 tips on how to incoporate outdoor learning into your school. Read on to find out more…

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“As we all know, the benefits of Outdoor Learning have never been clearer or more needed!

The Natural Connections project is a government funded, three-year research and development programme which published its final report in 2016.

The project found that learning in natural environments had a positive impact on both children and teacher’s experiences. Some of the key benefits were:

  • Children enjoyed the lessons more
  • Health and wellbeing was improved for children and teachers
  • Children felt a greater connection to natural environments
  • Children were more engaged with their learning
  • Behaviour, engagement and attainment was improved
  • There was a marked improvement in children’s social skills

So, with all of these benefits to children, teachers and the natural world, why aren’t all schools practising Outdoor Learning across a range of curriculum areas?

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There are a variety of reasons why Outdoor Learning is not implemented in all our schools, including staff attitudes, lack of funding and a lack of confidence. However, with a few tools, we can encourage all schools to take part in this exciting approach. Below are 5 top tips for making Outdoor Learning work in your school.

1) Training 

In our experience, we have found that training staff plays a key role in getting Outdoor Learning established and ensuring that it continues over time. There is a range of training out there from Forest School to more curriculum based approaches. Make sure you check the content of the training carefully to ensure it meets your needs and invest wisely in staff that are keen to take this on board. It’s worth thinking about training more than one member of staff so they can work together on the project.

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2) Risk/Benefit Analysis

This is something we cover on the training, it just means weighing up the potential risks of an outdoor learning activity with the benefits to the children. If the risks outweigh the benefits, think about how to reduce them, if the benefits outweigh the risks, the activity can go ahead! There is some great advice on the HSE website about how we must maintain a sensible approach and not be frightened by the fear of litigation.

3) Get the Support of Management, Governors, Parents etc

This is sometimes easier said than done but a lot of senior management teams are now understanding more about Outdoor Learning and are keen to support it. Governors can be crucial as they make spending decisions and parents are the ones who are sending their children into the great outdoors with you! So, do your research into the benefits of OL and arrange to meet with these people to persuade them! You could arrange a parents evening or even invite people out to observe an OL session in practice! For more information, visit the Natural Connections Project and Ofstead‘s research.

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4) Think About How You Are Going to Do Things

Writing policies and procedures is no-one’s favourite job, but it just means thinking through how you are going to approach Outdoor Learning to keep the activities safe and sustainable. This could include thinking about providing the right clothing, toileting, staff ratios or managing behaviour outdoors. Start simple and add to these as you progress.

5) Develop a Whole School Approach

This links to all of the above points and is really the key to making Outdoor Learning sustainable in your school. Get the support of others, include the children in the decision-making processes and link you planning to your indoor curriculum so that the outdoor sessions are not just seen as an extra bolt-on when the indoor learning is done, but a fully integrated part of your curriculum delivery.

Remember, there are lots of learning opportunities for all children just outside the classroom window!

Good luck!!

Rooted Forest School offer a range of accredited Outdoor Learning and Forest School training at inspiring venues across the Midlands. Our courses are hands-on, with lots of practical ideas for you to take back to your setting. We cover all relevant Health and Safety issues, practical skills and aim to make the training relevant to your own place of work. For more details contact Sam Goddard 07891 173 950 samgoddard22@gmail.com or visit the Rooted Forest website.

For Forest School fun…

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