Benefits of outdoor learning

Posted on 24th October 2016

Why is outdoor learning not being experienced by children on a regular basis?”, asks Dunhurst head of Outdoor Work, Ryan Walsh, in an article for New Forest Living magazine.

The Department of Health recommends that children are active for at least an hour a day, with numerous studies suggesting that outdoor learning has much to offer. Lessons undertaken outdoors can be more enjoyable and engaging, and improve pupils’ social skills, health, wellbeing and behaviour.

The growing Forest School movement aside, however, there is only very limited outdoor learning in schools. A recent Natural England report suggested that during any month during 2013-2015 only eight per cent of school-aged children in England visited the natural environment with their schools. One of the main stumbling blocks, says Ryan, is the lack of timetabled outdoor learning time - a consequence of Ofsted targets, an over-emphasis on results, and a narrowing of the curriculum.

According to Ryan, almost any subject can be taught in an outdoor setting, and outdoor learning is a core subject for all three Bedales schools (covering the age range 3-18). At Dunhurst, Outdoor Work is timetabled for 70 minutes each week, with children learning bushcraft, horticulture, animal husbandry, and other crafts. Besides the academic benefits (subject areas such as science are well served through the Outdoor Work curriculum), Ryan has also identified a social and moral component. He explains: “I am struck by how cooperative, kind and helpful the children are – particularly in group tasks where there is a common goal. They help each other, share, talk, laugh (and even sing!) as they work.” Sufficient reason, he suggests, for regular forays outside. View the full article published in New Forest Living Magazine here.

Read more about Ryan Walsh here. Dunhurst Outdoor Work also provides regular updates on Twitter.