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Let's rewild the learning experience!

We would all agree that being outside is good for us: so why is it that only 1 in 10 children are playing regularly in natural areas?

Despite overwhelming evidence that outdoor learning is a vital vehicle for academic success, outdoor activities are often still simply seen as a way of getting active or of boosting personal development: they come second to the more important job of educating your children, or - if you're a teacher - of meeting your targets.

Research from King's College, London, has shown the importance of outdoor learning cannot be underestimated as a tool for raising educational standards. Children who have access to outdoor learning "perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies.

"There is clear evidence that increased play and outdoor activity does actually improve reading and maths." - Cath Prisk, former Director of Play England


Ofsted agrees, and has published research which shows that outdoor learning contributes significantly to the quality and depth of learning and produces improvements in academic achievement.

Public opinion is also on board: 82% of people think that schools should be providing outdoor learning.

In Sheffield, which claims to be visibly the greenest city in Britain, we see these results every time we take a school group to one of our reserves. It's not just that their behaviour improves, that they concentrate better or that their confidence is boosted. When children are exposed to wildlife and the natural environment their brain activity skyrockets and they absorb their learning in a way which just would not happy if they were stuck in the classroom all day.

So here at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust we are on a mission to rewild our children, through our Thinking Outside the Box project.

We want to make sure that as many young people as possible in our two cities get to experience this learning revolution.

We're already connecting more children with nature in their home lives through our Wild Play and Wild Side sessions for families and young people. We also support schools to improve their outdoor learning through curriculum-linked sessions, whole school enrichment days. For school trips, we have fantastic education facilities at the Woodland Discover Centre in Ecclesall Woods, and we help schools rewild their grounds with our Wildplay products and landscaping service.

Now we want to do even more to connect young people and wildlife, so we're working with teachers to develop some fantastic new outdoor learning experiences which help make important links right across the new curriculum from ICT to literacy.

We're promoting the importance of outdoor learning for improving attainment across the curriculum through our INSET programme. Recently we visited Lydgate Infants School, which has a beautiful but underused wildlife area. With a little inspiration from us, teachers there are now developing some brilliant ways of using their outdoor space to boost learning.

So whether you're a teacher, a parent, a Watch leader or a TWT outdoor learning officer, we'd love to hear your outdoor learning ideas. If each of us can do a little bit more to help the children in our lives take a leap - or even a tentative step - into the wild, we'll be making a real difference to their future.

If you want to get in touch about the Thinking Outside the Box project contact Jane Campbell, Senior Outdoor Learning Development Officer, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, on 0114 263 4335 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Follow us on Twitter for outdoor learning tips and news: @Teachwildsheff

 

Jane Campbell

Senior Outdoor Learning Development Officer

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust