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We had such a fun time this week talking to Juliet Robertson all about outdoor education. We learned some amazing things about settings which spend 90% of their time out of doors as well as a huge heap of tips and strategies for every classroom!
Juliet is one of Scotland’s leading consultants on outdoor learning and play.
Is outdoor learning only for younger learners?
“Anyone can be outdoors and anyone can learn outdoors.”
Juliet also believes that any outdoor space will do fine for outdoor learning – a concrete playground is fine. She also points out that 90% of people live within a 10 minute walk of green space.
How much planning and form filling needs to be done in order to take children outside?
“Often, fear stops people from realising the freedoms they have.”
Juliet says that the Health and Safety Executive have, over recent years, been making it clear that we shouldn’t confuse health and safety with other matters – we need children to experience risk. We now have risk/benefit assessments – there needs to be a balance. As long as reasonable precautions have been put in place and the benefits outweigh the risks, we should be happy to carry out any reasonable activity.
“Schools, teachers and other people who work with children dynamically risk assess all the time.”
Having risk assessment conversations with the children is also very important.
Is learning more efficient inside or outside?
Juliet believes that this depends on how it is being mediated – she has seen rubbish lessons inside an outside. There is a lot of added value in outside education and children are more active and less stressed:
“Outside, you are constantly problem solving.”
Half to a third of younger children would rather be outside learning and often the gap between the least and most able is often closed because, for example, the need to decode text is removed. Juliet refers to a Scottish study into maths taught outside where dramatic increases we seen.
Are our children getting less likely to be outside in their daily lives?
It’s a complex picture, according to Juliet. There is a growth in parents who believe that their children should not be inside too much and are doing a lot about it.
“The fastest growing sector…is outdoor nurseries…we have 23 in Scotland.”
Juliet shares many practical ideas for outdoor lessons – do listen to the whole episode!
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