Lessons from Near and Far
  • Main Lecture Theatre & Cass Building, University of East London Stratford Campus, Water Lane, London, E15 4LZ

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Lessons from Near and Far - improving links between policy and research around children’s learning outside the classroom in natural environments (LINE).

Despite evidence of benefits of children’s experience in natural environments, access to them remains restricted especially for those from areas of high deprivation.  Research in the field of outdoor learning has often been fragmented and relatively small scale, leading to significant challenges for both strategic research and policy development in relation to supporting development through outdoor learning of foundational dispositions that are associated with attainment, health and wellbeing. However several recent larger scale initiatives both here and abroad offer the opportunity to learn from national and international evidence of effective research practice informing policy and policy informing research practice. 

The conference brings together key players from the research and policy communities:

  • to provide a forum for learning from international research and policy  
  • to identify, align with and inform policy directions to capitalise on this powerful resource for children’s  resilience in their health, wellbeing and learning, in particular establishing LINE’s potential to develop malleable character traits that are precursors to attainment and enhanced employability.
  • to identify and build a shared research agenda that will tackle the key challenges for policy development both nationally and internationally. 

This will be achieved by:

  • considering recent evidence of change in the scale and nature of children’s use of and access to the natural environment in relation to key social and economic factors and the challenges that presents.  
  • reviewing international recent outdoor learning initiatives with schools and their communities and their impacts in order to shape how delivery and evaluation of programmes might be developed at both policy and practice levels
  • bringing together research and policy communities to: a) identify and discuss lessons from the current evidence-based knowledge in supporting a productive exchange between policy and research in outdoor learning; b) highlight gaps in our understanding or evidence base, and c) develop pathways to impact from the current state of play.  

The conference will result in a pathway to impact report by the conference facilitator, Professor Karen Malone, University of Western Sydney. This will reflect the literature, capture examples of best practice and provide recommendations for improving children’s resilience in health, wellbeing and learning through school-based learning in natural environments. 

In her capacity as convenor of the outdoor and experiential learning research network (www.oelres.net) at Plymouth University and as part of her current ESRC International Partnership Network award, Sue Waite from the University's Plymouth Institute of Education is leading the organisation of the conference with partners, Natural England, the University of East London (UEL) and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom.

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