A partnership between University academics and a local multi academy trust (MAT) is involving Plymouth schoolchildren in the latest research into outdoor learning.
Senior Research Fellow Dr Rowena Passy and Lecturer in Education Kelly Davis are working with Discovery Multi Academy Trust as part of a three-year, EU-funded project aiming to draw up guidelines for teachers.
Go Outdoors and Learn (GOaL) is a €250,000 project funded by Erasmus+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. Led by the University College of Southeast Norway, GOaL has partner schools and universities in Belgium and Italy, as well as Plymouth.
Staff at Trust school Beechwood Primary Academy in Southway are using different teaching techniques, under observation by the researchers from the University's Institute of Education. By sharing, observing and evaluating different approaches across borders, project researchers gain clues as to how practice needs to be adapted to become applicable to teachers and learners everywhere. This will then inform the guidelines that will be the key output of the research.
An outdoor learning day took place at Beechwood Primary Academy as part of the project, with some lessons taught outside, and a Forest School area set up for future development. Pupils also learnt how to play bangra music, in preparation for a performance at Plymouth Respect Festival 2018.
Dr Passy said: "Schools in towns and cities often have wonderful grounds, and by the same token it’s a mistake to think that just because a school is in the country it will have loads of outside space."
"Children are happy and healthy outside, but it requires a different pedagogical approach, and a different approach in general. The relationship between teachers and children can alter, and children feel freer outside, when they’re not in a classroom.
“This research into curricular outdoor learning is based on international cooperation and the sharing of national expertise. We are supporting teachers in developing a creative, inclusive approach, which will feed into the internationally-applicable guidelines we devise, and the recommendations we make to policymakers.”
Kelly Davis added: “Research into outdoor learning brings so many things together: the obesity problem, people’s love of the environment and the hope that it can connect children to nature, and also the hope that it can relieve some of the pressure they can feel in the classroom.”