Deborah Williams is a Teach the SDGs Ambassador. She writes about how can we effectively use nature as a tool for content and language integrated learning. As with all our blogs, the ideas presented here are not necessarily the views of the Association.

The title of my Masters dissertation for the MEd Teacher Development for Content and Language Integrated Learning [CLIL] at UAB Barcelona was: How can we effectively use nature as a tool for CLIL to help young learners become active global citizens and competent in the English language?

For the purpose of differentiating the teaching and learning of woodland activities in a CLIL setting from other outdoor learning contexts where such activities may be provided in the English language, I have extended the acronym CLIL to NatCLIL and defined the term NatCLIL as the effective use of nature as a tool for CLIL.

This approach to learning content and language in woodland environments can be differentiated from other approaches to outdoor learning and is offered as an innovative contribution to plurilingual education, promoting education for sustainable development and global citizenship, and authentic 21st century skills for life-long learning.  To effectively implement woodland activities for young learners in second language settings, my research and experience has demonstrated that in addition to professionally accredited woodland activity leadership training and some knowledge of the SDGs, it would also be necessary to have English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching skills, understand the key principles of CLIL and know how to: 

balance the cognitive and linguistic demands of a session

analyse the different types of language that students will need support with, and provide the appropriate language support

use classroom interactional competence and scaffolding strategies to help learners acquire and produce both language and content, and

design quality teaching and learning materials for CLIL

Woodland activity leadership training, CLIL expertise, and SDG knowledge form the base of the NatCLIL structure. They are the three necessary pillars to support the effective use of nature as a tool for CLIL and I have developed a NatCLIL framework to facilitate effective collaboration between CLIL teachers and woodland activity leaders, to enhance woodland-based learning experiences for EFL learners. In addition, I have designed a template to support any woodland activity providers in their planning towards an effective NatCLIL session.  NatCLIL sessions/programmes can be cross-curricular or with a single-subject focus and tailor-made according to each group’s needs.


Deborah can be contacted at:

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