In an increasingly results-driven and time-pressured environment, making the case for time spent outside of the classroom can at times seem challenging. With the constant rounds of controlled assessments, reports, mocks and public exams, where is the time, or the justification, for taking a group of students out?
In fact, the benefits of learning outside the classroom are many and varied. From improved group dynamics to boosted self-esteem, enhanced problem-solving skills to extending one’s personal horizons and ambitions, a carefully planned programme of outdoor activities can provide an effective and measurable opportunity for personal development.
At a time when schools are looking to develop personalised learning programmes, outdoor education offers an alternative for those students who may not engage so well with more traditional methods. The Pupil Premium was designed by the Government to fund programmes to raise the attainment of disadvantaged students and to close the gap between them and their peers. Schools have been given the freedom and flexibility to choose how best to spend this money, and many have seen the benefits of a personalised programme of outdoor activities.
For those of us fortunate enough to live and work in a rural setting, it is easy to forget how privileged we are. In the early years of the twenty first century, we have witnessed the rise of the “concrete child”, who sees life through a TV or a computer screen, rather than by simply being in the great outdoors.
The new research conducted by the Year of Food and Farming indicates that 20% of children in England never visit the countryside, which, at a conservative estimate, could equate to as many as 1.1 million pupils who never leave town or city-centre. A further 17% have only visited the countryside once or twice, which means that more than a third of school-aged children only have the most fleeting contact with England’s fields, farms and lanes.”* This separation between urban children and the environment needs to be addressed to enable them to have a greater sense of understanding and responsibility for the natural world. It seems ironic that is an age where our digital and virtual knowledge and presence continues to expand, our knowledge and understanding of the physical world is contracting.
*Source: AGRICULTURAL LITERACY Giving concrete children food for thought, DR ARIC SIGMAN