The Learning Through Landscape’s My School, My Planet pilot outdoor education programme supported children from disadvantaged ethnic groups and low-income families to re-engage with learning as they transitioned into the new academic year following the first Covid-19 related lockdown. Participating pupils were offered academic learning focused on three core subjects as a way of engaging them with their outdoor environment and supporting their wellbeing, while encouraging a greater connection to their natural heritage. This programme took place in 49 schools and provided over 700 hours of support to 1029 children across the UK. It was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. You can find out more about the initiative here (the findings in full) and here (the executive summary).
The Centre for Education & Youth (CfEY) was commissioned to conduct an independent evaluation of the pilot. The evaluation had a mixed methods design combining baseline and endpoint surveys, from all participants, with qualitative data from four sampled schools. The qualitative data includes interviews with project trainers and members of the schools’ senior leadership teams, and a range of project outputs from children, including images and drawings. The impact of the pilot project and found measurable increases in the physical activity of participants, and a notable increase in academic knowledge and understanding of the programme’s core subjects.
Key findings included these:
– My School, My Planet allowed a diverse group of children to take part in outdoor learning about their local natural heritage. This was particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many children had spent significant time indoors.
– Children’s engagement with issues about their local environment and natural heritage increased during the project. Their awareness of how their school grounds linked to environmental problems increased over the course of the project. Children demonstrated a growing feeling of agency over the local environment.
– There was compelling evidence of a shift in children’s understanding of how their local actions can have a wider environmental impact during the project.
– The project gave children an opportunity to demonstrate their engagement with issues impacting on their local environment and natural heritage, particularly in their school grounds.
– There were positive shifts in children’s wellbeing during My School, My Planet delivery, across a number of indicators of physical and social wellbeing. In particular, the project gave young people an opportunity to increase their physical activity levels.
– There were measurable increases in children’s knowledge of biodiversity, climate change and soils, as well as their sense of empowerment over improving the school grounds.
– Children were measurably more aware of how their local actions might contribute to wider environmental outcomes.
– My School, My Planet prompted children and school staff to make more of their local natural heritage by developing cultural maps and journeys.
Ros Kerlake, Chief Executive of the fund said: We chose to support this innovative and inspiring project because of the way it uses the outdoors to engage pupils with nature and climate change in a very real way. Outdoor learning is a brilliant way to help children get back in to an educational setting after so much time away from the classroom and staring at screens. It is critical that all children are taught the value of nature all around us and understand the impact of climate change so that all have a say in the future our of planet.”