Group in woodland

From the classroom into the great outdoors - helping teachers to take lessons outside

Sue Cade
Authored by Sue Cade
Posted: Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 13:55

A new course has been launched at Exmouth’s Forest School for teachers who want to add a different dimension to teaching by taking classes outdoors.

‘Learning Beyond the Classroom’ from The Outdoors Group gives teachers and volunteers new skills to use nature and the environment to teach the curriculum outside of the classroom.

Course leader, Ali Taylor explains, “There’s increasing evidence about the benefits of learning outdoors for the physical, mental and social health of young people – but studies also show that it helps improve stress levels of teachers.

“With this course we’re aiming to break down boundaries and encourage teachers to literally step outside their normal classroom environment.”

Delegates participate in a variety of activities that inspire them to think about new ways of teaching the curriculum that will really engage young learners. The forest school setting gives them access to plenty of natural resources to spark ideas for lesson plans and activities to take back to their schools.

“It’s an ideal way to build up confidence to teach outdoors. Delegates have plenty of fun, at the same time learning how nature and the environment can encourage creativity, teamwork and a new vocabulary in children,” Ali says.

Participants on the inaugural course included teachers from Exmouth and Crediton plus a school volunteer from Wales, who enjoyed making a mud face on a tree stump and playing ‘ninja sticks’ with hazel striplings alongside discussions on topics such as managing groups and facilitating learning beyond the classroom, understanding risk-benefit analysis and planning activities.

Sophie Greaves from Avanti Hall said: “I’ve enjoyed learning ideas, new games, new ways of thinking about how you can use what’s around you. It’s interesting to hear about different age group activities – it really helps you to see how you can expand and extend children.

“What I’m taking away from this is how to inspire others. I have a new team and I’ll be able to use what I’ve learnt to inspire them to take more of their lessons outside.”

Perfect for those working at primary schools, secondary schools and other education settings, the ITC level 3 course is only the third of its kind in the UK. It gives teachers in the region an outstanding opportunity to grow their confidence in taking their learning outdoors. 

‘Learning Beyond the Classroom’ takes place in natural woodland with a central campfire and tarpaulin providing warmth and rain cover if needed. The two day course runs across two weeks to minimise disruption to schools, with dates available throughout the year.