Through her work as the Founding Headteacher at The Coombes School, Susan Humphries, MBE, MA, has spent forty years developing teaching methods that are based on outdoor experiences and an understanding of the natural environment.
Sue’s work illustrates how outdoor teaching can contribute to a traditional school education, whilst at the same time boosting self confidence and personal growth in children. Her talent for combining landscape architecture, plants, children, art and culture drove an effective and joyful learning experience at Coombes and her techniques in connecting curriculum to the school grounds have inspired designers and educators all over the world. Researchers from England, Sweden, Japan and the USA have studied the school’s teaching methods and environment. Sue has also travelled the world sharing the philosophy and techniques used by The Coombes School.
Sue founded the Coombes School in 1971 and officially retired in 2001. Since its inception, Sue has been working with Learning through Landscapes and is a member of the board of Trustees. In 2011, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Faculty of Natural Resouces and Agricultural Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, to acknowledge the foundations that she had laid in building individual and group responsibility for healthy ecosystems and sustainable use of natural resources.
In 2012, Sue collaborated with Susan Rowe to write a book call The Coombes Approach: learning through an experimental and outdoor curriculum, to share The Coombes School’s perspective.
After retiring from Coombes, Sue worked with the Forth Environment Link (FEL) and continued to work with various schools in Scotland promoting the outdoor learning approach. Sue ran workshops and worked regularly with three schools who were nominated by the FEL, In November 2018, whilst on at a conference on environmental learning in Japan, Sue was presented with a life time achievement award. She then went to Delaware to run a two-week workshop for the Lab School and the College School at the University. This September, Sue is running a series of workshops in San Francisco in collaboration with Sharon Danks and Green Schoolyards America. Sue will be going into local schools by invitation and will be writing a book (alongside Dr. Tony Kendal) about her outdoor learning in the 21st century.