Transforming outdoor learning in schools
Lessons from the natural connections project
Natural Connections was a four-year project (2012 to 2016) funded by Defra, Natural England and Historic England, and delivered by Plymouth University. Transforming outdoor learning in schools is a summary document of that research.
Existing research on the barriers to and the benefits of learning outside the classroom in natural environments (referenced in this booklet as outdoor learning) was used to develop and test more effective ways to provide local support to schools and teachers to enable outdoor learning. The project has shown that high quality, local independent support can be very effective in establishing outdoor learning in schools and in making a real contribution to achieving school priorities. The project’s scale has also enabled it to add significantly to the evidence on outdoor learning and its positive outcomes for pupils, teachers and schools.
Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a way of teaching. Natural Connections has shown that it’s possible for school grounds and local greenspaces to be used daily to enhance teaching and learning right across the curriculum, and to deliver a wide range of associated benefits, including promoting children’s social and emotional skills and their engagement with learning.
The project also found that the major challenges to outdoor learning, such as staff confidence in teaching outside and uncertainty how to deliver the curriculum through outdoor learning, can be overcome by enabling teachers and schools to work with and learn from each other. This booklet makes a strong case for outdoor learning and hopes to provide schools and school networks with the starting points that might enable more schools to develop their own plans for outdoor learning.
You can also read the government press release – “The Natural Connections Demonstration project has published new evidence on the benefits of outdoor learning to pupils, teachers and schools.”
For more evidence and research on outdoor learning and play, please visit our evidence pages.