Outdoor Classroom Day; Why Sustainability And The Outdoors Go Hand In Hand

Outdoor Classroom Day is upon us once more and it always seems like a low hanging fruit for us to celebrate because across all twelve of our Forest School sites, all our “classrooms” are outdoors! The clue is kind of, in the name. In past years we’ve looked at tips for educators, examined why outdoor learning is so important, and even had a guest post from the wonderful folk at Teach Outdoors. This year however, we thought we’d muse about sustainability in education and how being outdoors can be a fantastic vehicle for facilitating learning about this.

Research collected from Teach The Future about climate education shows that across the board, nearly three quarters of both teachers and students feel that climate change and sustainability isn’t given enough emphasis within the curriculum and should be taught and explored more. And we completely agree! There are fantastic organisations such as the Ministry of Eco Education who are working to place sustainability at the centre of education so please do check out their work to see what they’re doing and how you can get involved. But for now, we thought we’d take a look at what we do and why to try and include sustainability in the educational approaches that we take.

Every time a young person joins us in the woods, one of our priorities is to instil a love and respect of the outdoors within them. This is the case whether they are coming on a long-term basis, over the course of years, or whether they are just joining us for the day. By facilitating a connection with the natural world, our hope is that they will grow up wanting to protect it and stand up for it when they see it being threatened. By having positive, fulfilling experiences outside, we believe these learners will associate these feelings with being outside and will be more empowered and motivated to care for the world around them.

For our long-term attendees, we take this one step further by facilitating opportunities for them to get involved in projects that improve the land we are using and to be active participants in protecting our environment and local habitats. This might be through one-off projects like building bat boxes, or it may be longer term such as our school learners attending allotment gardens so that they can use food grown on site in their lunches every day, and regular litter picks in our local areas. 

We were absolutely thrilled to receive the Gold ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ accreditation last year, which demonstrates our commitment to an alternative educational approach, of which sustainability is a key component. 

This academic year, we are taking part in the Eco Schools award which is a learner led enterprise. They will identify three areas that they want to focus on (ranging from things like reusable energy to transport) and will run a project in each of these areas to encourage positive sustainable changes within our school. We hope that this will help our learners to not suffer from overwhelm when thinking about the larger issue of climate change by empowering them to see what changes they can make on a small scale that will contribute to the bigger picture. 

We are passionate about equipping the young people we work with with the skills, knowledge and desire that they need to care about the world around them so that they will go on to make choices in their lives that consider sustainability and hopefully make a larger impact in the spaces they occupy. So this Outdoor Classroom Day, we are celebrating outdoor spaces and their role in empowering young people to be mindful of the world we inhabit and the challenges it faces.

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Thursday 23rd May 2024

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