Closing the loop

South West Outdoors Group recently hosted an outdoor learning symposium at the Met Office on 28 April.

Various schools and educational groups were invited to listen to three fascinating presentations by local organisations specialising in outdoor learning.

Tessa from Farms for City Children talked about the lasting benefits of a residential at one of their farms, particularly for children who struggle in a classroom environment. A week spent on a working farm, getting muddy, engaging with the repetition and routine of farming can be an ideal place for children to shine, work together as a team and grow, free from the confines of a classroom.

Next Rob from Dartmoor’s Heatree Activity Centre took us through its new National Outdoor Learning Award and showed us how you can use the great outdoors for learning opportunities. He gave the example of rock climbing as a way to not only physically challenge a student, but also engage them in geology and physics. Outside the classroom there is so much scope to learn – all it takes is some freedom and imagination.

SWOG’s founder, Shevek Pring, offered an eye-opening insight into how forest school works as an intervention method for children struggling in the education system. Based on the Scandinavian model, Forest School offers child-led, experiential learning, which can be particularly beneficial for children with behavioural issues. Shev gave some inspiring examples of the relationships and trust he’s built with children who’ve faced exclusion at school, or struggled to learn and thrive in a classroom environment. The key is to intervene early, rather than as a last resort, which is more often the case. We also heard about the science behind mud being good for us!

Seamo Teare, a Babcock specialist support assistant, closed the talks by sharing some of his insightful learnings and observations from mentoring autistic children.

Each presentation was followed with questions from delegates, which led into some interesting discussions around personal experiences and best practice.

South West Outdoors Group hopes to make this symposium an annual event. Watch this space…


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