Whilst the current COVID-19 crisis is putting everyone’s life in a period of uncertainty - no one is facing as much unrest as the key workers across the world and the families they support. With a lot of schools remaining open to support the children of these key workers it is a good time to bring up a very interesting concept - outdoor learning.

The SLT of schools across the country are currently struggling to deal with the issue of partial school closure and large scale staff absence. Many teachers and school leaders are advocating the use of technology to support home learning for students. However, whilst these are of great benefit to the students who are currently at home, what about the children who are still going into school? The UK government, alongside many others across the globe, is recommending steps you can take to reduce social interaction between people to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and return to normalcy as quickly as we can. With this in mind, the case for outdoor learning has never seemed so relevant.

Outdoor learning is a fantastic option for school leaders to educate children still in school whilst maintaining social distancing. Forest School is an initiative well known in the UK and is one form of outdoor learning, centred around ‘learning by doing’ to nurture pupils’ curiosity. This has been adopted across schools with innovative outdoor learning activities being designed for many different subjects; learning numeracy by tying strings around trees or learning about local wildlife. Transitioning to a more outdoor focus could potentially help the current disruption in three ways:

  1. Being outside will help teachers ensure there can be as much social distancing between the students as possible
  2. The classes will help keep the students engaged and happy during a time where they could be worried about the future
  3. With schools having to rely on a much reduced workforce, potentially merging classes, this could be a way to reduce the strain put on the staff

Janet Green is a Forest School Practitioner at Lime Tree primary academy in Trafford and a long time advocate of outdoor learning. She sees increasing the amount of Forest School and outdoor learning as a solution for some of the issues faced by both schools and their students during this period. The happiness and wellbeing of children is always paramount, and in the current climate of self isolation providing outdoor learning is definitely an option to keep everyone in the best state of mind.

“In times like these it can be important to shift your focus away from academic achievement and onto that of the students’ mental health” -

Janet Green, Forest School Practitioner, Lime Tree primary academy.

Janet was telling me how, whilst Lime Tree is an accredited Forest School provider from the Forest School Association (FSA), outdoor learning can be delivered by teachers and support staff. The core idea remains the same, that by keeping students active and engaged in creative learning activities they can be healthy, engaged and happy.

There are challenges ahead but this can be a helpful source of inspiration for overcoming some of them. Lastly, the team here at Zen Educate hope everyone, both in schools and out, remain safe and healthy at this time and would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to all key workers during this crisis.

We will be sharing a mini-series on outdoor learning and outdoor curriculum teaching by Janet Green from Lime Tree Academy! Follow us on Twitter to stay updated on the latest posts!