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Outdoor Learning... in the Scottish winter?

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Claire O'Gallagher Claire O'Gallagher | 09:51 UK time, Friday, 30 October 2009

In recent years, and particularly with the transition to Curriculum for Excellence, there has been a shift towards outdoor learning. Learning and Teaching Scotland has endorsed outdoor learning as a 'powerful way to deliver Curriculum for Excellence', and there's no doubt that it's those moments outside the classroom, the field trips and days away that we remember when we look back on our schooldays. To date, 45 MSPs have signed up to a mission statement supported by a variety of outdoor education groups, stating 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.'

I posted previously about the films we made with Merrylee Primary and the North Glasgow Community Food Initiative, growing their own vegetables. This was a great example of a real cross-curricular activity that took kids out of the classroom, gave them a range of new skills and introduced them to people who had stories of their own to tell and pass on. An enriching experience, I'm sure you'll agree, but it's only one example of how CfE and the outdoors go hand-in-hand.

sailing_600_338.jpg

I know, I know... the weather we have here in Scotland isn't always conducive to taking a group of learners outside. Especially as we approach the dark days of winter. On the other hand, why not? I came across this story in the TESS, about an innovative project called Classroom at Sea, and it's clear from the article that the pupils didn't really mind getting wet or cold, they just enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot from it. Under the guidance of a small but hardy crew of staff, the students sail a boat and take part in all elements of life on the waves. I got in touch with Alistair Thomson from Alford Academy, who is mentioned in the piece to find out a bit more. He was keen to highlight the importance of the process of selecting the candidates for the scheme - there is extensive consultation on which learners will get the most out of the project, and they come from a wide range of learning styles and abilities. I think this is crucial - too often learners can be pigeonholed by what they're 'good' at, and don't get a chance to try new things.

And it's not just the pupils learning new things - the teachers can go on and learn new skills which they can then use as part of outdoor lessons. The Speygrian trust allows them to build on each outdoor experience by learning from and with experienced outdoor professionals, rather than fellow educationalists.

There's many different ways you can get involved with outdoor learning, whether it is by taking on a whole project like Classroom at Sea, or by introducing elements of the outdoors into traditional classroom projects. Have a look at the BBC Scotland Outdoors site to get your creative juices flowing!

Image from BBC Scotland Outdoors Sailing in the City gallery. Sailing in the City is a RYA Scotland initiative to provide sailing opportunities for children between 8 and 14 years of age.

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