I was recently asked why we do what we do, our ethos, and what we actually do. So, in this blog, we will unpack all of that!
This is an easy one to give a short answer to – because I want to make a difference for both children and teachers. But the full answer is a bit more in-depth.
I have worked in education for almost twenty years in various roles. Over half of that was as a class teacher, and I worked in mainstream, severe and complex and autism provisions. I quickly discovered that outdoor learning could provide children in each of these settings with something that indoor learning could not. It helped all children achieve, and it removed barriers. Now, I admit that is a simplistic statement, and it would need a whole series of blogs to unpack that. But in short, it truly made a difference.
But it also impacted me as a teacher. I suffer from stress and anxiety. It is a lot better these days, but as a teacher, I took two periods of extended leave due to breakdowns. A big part of getting me back to school was being able to work outside the school, even just in the playground! It helped me build relationships with the children and staff. But it also reduced my workload.
I appreciate that outdoor learning is not a silver bullet but should be a beneficial tool at every teacher’s disposal.
This is simple: outdoor learning should be a tool used by every teacher to support learning. Lessons can be short, simple approaches and outdoor learning can make a difference. We work with schools to help them achieve the outdoor learning that works for them.
We encourage teachers to start with what they know best – the curriculum and build from there.
As a person, I have undertaken years of training. This includes Forest School level 3 (in the form of the Scottish FOLA course), Lead Teacher for Outdoor Learning, Woodland Activity Leader Training, Coastal Activity Leader Training and specialist courses from whittling and carving to foraging and more. I am also almost completed my Masters in Learning for Sustainability, which has a focus on outdoor learning.
The breadth of that training means I have a broad understanding of different approaches and philosophies. It means I do not do one size fits all but instead can properly support a school with their individual aims, making use of their individual settings.
So, with all of this, how do we support schools? Well, we have a few ways in which we approach that!
From whole school inset days, during which most of the day is spent outside. These can be for a single school or a catchment; we can even provide training for councils. These days focus on where the staff are at in their outdoor training and where you hope to get them to. They provide a host of ideas and activities and a grounding in outdoor learning theory and methods. These days aim to ensure all staff leave with a bank of lessons and a plan for delivering them.
We can also undertake longer-term training where we work with your school over weeks or months. This is generally provided on a one to one basis working with a class. In the first lesson, we deliver outdoor learning to a class and have the teacher observe us. The second lesson is planned together, and we use a team teaching approach before sharing feedback. The teacher leads the final lesson, and we observe before providing feedback. The feedback is always constructive, with clear, achievable objectives set together.
We are also preparing to launch an in depth training course early next year, which covers everything from policy to planning, delivery to whole school approaches. It combines the best of our training and experiences.
We run a variety of input sessions. The pupil integration session is small group sessions run over a period of six weeks. They aim to build confidence and help young people develop coping strategies to support them in school and life.
Our pupil experiences and workshops are full and half day sessions which link to the curriculum and vary depending on the group. They can be delivered on school grounds or at an agreed-upon site. Depending on the focus, we can have up to 66 children at a session!
We also have an online membership. This has over 200 lessons and over 300 activities. It also has monthly zooms with training, curriculum maps, progression planners, ongoing support, and much more. This is our one-stop shop with everything schools need to take their curriculum outdoors. It is aimed at the primary level, but we have members in secondary schools and even those in severe and complex provisions. While it is based on the Scottish curriculum, we have schools from around the world, including Thailand, Germany, Australia and America. At the end of the day, 2+2 is the same across the globe, so our lessons can support you regardless of which curriculum you follow!
That is Love Outdoor Learning in a nutshell! We have our book, our playground pedagogy visits, our free resources, and we have our love of outdoor learning. We do what we do to make a difference to your school, your children and your staff. If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to email us and ask them! And if you think your school would benefit from our support, please get in touch!