BLOG: The importance of outdoor learning

11th September 2018

The announcement of a new three-year education strategy from national land management charity, the Land Trust, is set to encourage more children to learn in an outdoor environment. In this blog, Land Trust’s director of portfolio management, Alan Carter, explains why learning outdoors is so important.

There has never been a more important time to focus on educating children on the benefits of being outdoors. An increasing number of studies have shown that childhood obesity levels and mental health problems are on the rise and levels of children and young people interacting with the natural environment are decreasing.

Over the next few years the Land Trust will work in partnership with local schools and nurseries across our 63 sites in England to give young people an opportunity to learn new skills, enhance their future prospects and make a difference in their communities.

Previous examples of the Trust’s work in education have proven successful. There are already a huge amount of educational activities going on at our sites across the country, with the number of school visits rising from 3,500 to 7,500 per annum over the last five years.

Elba Park is one such site playing a lead role in this work and was awarded Land Trust Educational Site of the Year after delivering activities to nearly 1,000 school children over the last 12 months.

Based in Sunderland, the team at Elba have built excellent working relationships with local schools which have seen children enjoying activities such as geocaching, pond dipping, meadow sweeps, crafts, surveys and identification, bulb and tree planting, and heritage activities.

Students from Portland Academy, a school for young people with special educational needs and disability, attend weekly sessions at the site with post-16 students undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh award.

Not only does outdoor learning give people the chance to learn about their surrounding environment and biodiversity, but it provides a setting which can encourage different behaviour in children.

One of the more significant reasons behind the Land Trust’s new strategy links two of our charitable aims: education and health.

More and more research is now being put into the positive impact of spending time outdoors on both physical and mental health. The figures on childhood obesity in the UK are staggering. One in four children start school overweight and one in 10 are obese and by the end of primary school, the percentage of obese children has doubled to one in five.  It is reported that three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates, and a fifth of children do not play outside at all on an average day.  

The Land Trust believes it is important that people get outdoors and get active, and that in turn this will benefit them in their academic studies. The guidelines for activity state that children should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary for extended periods and should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.

In time, this approach to learning has the ability to improve interaction, participation and ability for thousands of young people in the UK, potentially changing their relationship with the outdoors.”

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Blog: Importance of outdoor learning


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