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Outdoor Learning and Real World Learning

Group of 3-9 year olds on a Summer School, pond dipping at reserve

Image: Eleanor Bentall

Our education work is about bringing young people into first hand contact with nature.

Over the last 30 years, both education and wider society have changed in ways that make it more difficult for children to find out about the environment by playing and working in it.
In schools, a crowded curriculum, diminishing budgets and a growing fear of litigation have greatly reduced the amount of time schools can spend out of the classroom. At home, busy parents, increased home entertainment and increased fear of traffic and crime keep children indoors.

With the current implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence this provides a unique opportunity to make a step change in the experience young Scots get of the outdoor environment.
Over the past four years we have worked with organisations across Scotland to raise awareness of this lost contact with the real world. As part of the Real World Learning Partnership, we have worked with the Scottish Government and Parliament to see how this decline in outdoor learning can be reversed.

A major success in 2009 was a three day parliamentary event where 45 MSPs signed up to the Partnership’s mission statement that: ‘Every child, regardless of their background should have regular access to inspirational and challenging outdoor learning, where they can enjoy first-hand experience of their cultural heritage and natural environment, as part of a complete childhood’.

The manifesto of the Scottish Government includes an aim to make every school in Scotland a “One Planet School” and we are committed to outdoor learning being a part of making that happen.

However, while celebrating these successes we recognise that there is more work to be done and the Real World Learning campaign will continue to champion the role of first hand experience in learning about the importance of the environment.