Today’s blog is by Sheila Gundry, Resource Future’s Education Manager.

Wider learning and connected experience

Learning Outside the Classroom Day (18 May) is a lovely reminder of the great strides made across the country to encourage outdoor learning.  For me, having worked in Field Centres for many years, nothing seemed more natural than to teach and learn about rivers whilst standing in a river with a flowmeter, and to dig soil pits to gain a better understanding of soil horizons – the ‘dirty hands test’ for soil texture really was just that!

As well as long term work on outdoor learning by organisations such as Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Learning Through Landscapes, more recently Forest Schools has become increasingly more mainstream.  It is often integrated into the school timetable and there are numerous opportunities for Forest School training.  Outdoor learning is investigated through projects such as Natural Connections and it is at the heart of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) conferences, such as the recent event in Devon.

However, as outdoor learning gains momentum, other elements of ESD are becoming lower profile, particularly those hit by Local Authority cuts.  Waste education, for example, has reduced in Oxfordshire, North Somerset and Bristol.  Fewer Local Authorities have energy education programmes, now that schools have greater responsibility for their budgets.  Where energy education still exists, schools buy it in as part of an energy management package, for example, in North Yorkshire.

We need to support and celebrate ESD programmes where they remain, such as Solihull, Worcestershire and Leicestershire, and waste education too, such as in Devon.  Then we need to consider how we do our outdoor learning: opportunities exist to strengthen connections with the broader ESD agenda.  Various innovative projects are using systems thinking to integrate a variety of themes.  How about ‘Bike to Nature’, as in Brighton and Hove, which involves sustainable travel and health as well as biodiversity, or ‘Wild Beach’ (Sussex Wildlife Trust) which covers natural environment issues plus marine pollution issues and sustainable fishing?  So, as we enjoy our Learning Outside the Classroom Day, we need to make the most of opportunities for joining the dots and creating truly connected learning experiences.

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Sheila can be contacted at: Sheila.Gundry@resourcefutures.co.uk