Outdoor Learning and Nature Connection

Redlands Year R group walking to a Forest School session at Swanwick Lakes  © Lianne de Mello

Children and young people should have the chance to have unforgettable experiences discovering the outdoors. A hands-on connection with nature gives a much better understanding of the environment, as well as being fun!

If we can expand a child’s educational experience so that they value wildlife today, they will protect it tomorrow.  

Outdoor Education is a wide term covering many different types of learning, from Forest School to maths lessons outside. School grounds have a huge potential to support children and staff in a myriad of ways, from health and wellbeing to performance and self-confidence. 

There is a growing society-wide disconnect with nature which is a big factor in the steep declines in biodiversity we are facing. A growing body of evidence shows that contact with nature early in our lives is important to embed environmental values and behaviours in the next generation. Regular outdoor experiences are vital for good health, mental wellbeing, self-esteem, self-confidence and improving cognitive learning and performance back in the classroom.    

At the Trust we like to think about outdoor learning as falling into three different levels which are:   

1. Learning out of doors  

2. Learning with the outdoors  

3. Learning through outdoors  

At level 1, classroom learning is transferred to the outdoors, for example, a creative writing lesson taking place under the trees in the school grounds.  

At level 2, the natural environment becomes a teaching resource, for example, a pond dipping session.  

At level 3, children and staff spend more time in the outdoors, exploring, observing and having first-hand encounters with wildlife. For example, holding woodlice and other minibeasts at Forest School, or understanding the seasonal changes in an eco-garden. Through these experiences' children build a deeper connection with nature and begin to learn through these outdoor experiences. 

At the Trust, we offer several courses which support and mentor educators to allow them to develop their own outdoor curriculum. We provide them with the practical skills, resources and ideas to plan a curriculum for their school or setting. Ensuring outdoor classrooms are safe is key to effective learning, so the Trust’s courses also deliver the tools and experience to plan and manage health and safety outdoors. And what would outdoor learning be without wildlife! The final strand of the course weaves in ways to improve grounds for wildlife while increasing learning opportunities for students.  

If you are interested in any of our courses which are running from September, you can find more information, including booking details, on our website or you can email the Training Team on ForestSchool@hiwwt.org.uk