I am working closely with pilot schools across Carmarthenshire to launch an initiative based on the the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools project.
Outdoor Schools is an initiative that was developed by a couple of enthusiastic head teachers in Pembrokeshire in 2010.
The aim is to teach children to be fully engaged with and confident in their local environment through regular visits to their local outdoor areas. This in turn will develop physical and emotional well being.
Unlike other school based initiatives, Outdoor Schools is entirely led by the individual school enabling them to play to their interests and strengths and to take ownership of their outdoor learning. The idea is that it works for the school and doesn’t turn into an add on to teachers’ ever growing ‘to do’ lists.
The initiative fits in clearly with the Garden’s Education Department’s key goals of connecting people with the natural environment.
There is endless evidence to support the idea that taking learning outdoors can benefit learners in so many different ways. The pluses can be educational, social, health related (physical and mental) and environmental.
Sadly, the proliferation and popularity of indoor pastimes like computer games and TV, coupled with factors like increased road traffic and safety concerns, have resulted in many children today believing they have no reason to leave the house. For some their curiosity about nature is being lost. If this continues it seems inevitable that future generations will lose their connections with nature.
Personally I feel it is important that we ‘rewild’ our children. I despair when I see preschool children that can identify the McDonald’s ‘M’ at a glance but fail to tell me what a buttercup looks like or walk across a field of long grass because they don’t have the confidence or the motor skills.
There are four simple steps to becoming an Outdoor School:
- Whole school commitment to promote the use of the outdoors
- Identifying a suitable Outdoor School site
- Arrange regular visits to the site for children of all ages
The activities each school chooses to do with their children will be totally up to them but are likely to be dictated by the chosen outdoor sites and the interests and skills of their teachers.
Currently I am supporting the individual pilot schools with choosing their sites and developing ideas for activities. The idea behind working with the pilot schools is that they will become ambassadors for the initiative as it grows within the county.