Going Outdoors To Make Indoors Better

Submitted by Andy Barclay on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 14:47

Boy outdoors in the wood

One of the interesting findings in the excellent Ofsted report “Learning outside the Classroom – how far should you go?” was that the primary schools in the survey made better and more consistent use of their own buildings and grounds and the neighbouring area to support learning than the secondary schools. The survey was of course only a snapshot of what happens in schools but the message is clear. There is a fantastic resource just outside the classroom door and just outside the school gate.

Simon Beames, lecturer in the Outdoor Education team at Moray House University, has been piloting work in Outdoor Journeys. This is a cross-curricular initiative aimed at getting young people to undertake short, self-reliant journeys in their immediate environment. On their journey pupils investigate:

  • Human influences on the land - who lived/worked here 20 years ago? 100 years ago? 300 years ago? Yesterday? How have they shaped the land?
  • What/who else lives on the land - what plants, flowers, trees, and moss are present? Why? What bugs, birds, and animals can you spot or find evidence of? Who are the people who live in this area? What is their story?
  • Local land use issues - who owns the land? Who is “using” the land and for what purposes?

Woven throughout the discovery element of the project there are 3 themes which pupils have to embrace.

Finding Your Way

Normally, this will mean having some kind of map and learning how to set and use it, then planning and following a route. Maps could be sourced from the internet, the Ordnance Survey, or constructed by the pupils before, during, or after the journey. Good route planning involves estimating distances and travel time. It should comprise exit/access points for emergency purposes. Pupils may be expected to negotiate uneven muddy terrain, roads, and possibly climb over and around certain obstacles (e.g. rocks, trees, stiles). There may be occasions where small streams need to be crossed.

Managing Food, Drink and Comfort

Pupils learn to take responsibility for their own primary needs, such as:

  • Maintaining energy intake (starting properly fed and bringing ample food/snacks)
  • Maintaining fluid balance (starting hydrated and bringing adequate water/juice)
  • Temperature regulation (wearing suitable clothing – warm layers and waterproofs.

Managing Risk

Having the pupils create their own risk management plan is an important part of the programme and the educative process. Risk management incorporates a hazard assessment and an emergency action plan. As the programme progresses, pupils construct progressively more detailed hazard assessments. A simple and effective framework may involve identifying hazards that can cause serious harm, then explaining how these hazards can be managed.

The second element of risk management is the Emergency Action Plan. This involves outlining easy-to-follow steps for a variety of injuries/incidents.

Before embarking on a journey, the pupils will always leave a copy of their Journey Plan with the school office. This includes the intended route, a dedicated mobile phone contact, a list of pupils and adults, and the expected time of return.

Sounds great – adventure, exploration, fun and learning! Can’t think of a better combination of ingredients. Here in Cornwall this challenge has been embraced by the staff at Carnyorth who have designed their own learning journey around the theme of Explorers. The programme runs for 1 day a week over 6 weeks starting in the school grounds and culminating in an expedition to a local landmark. Check out Class 3 from St Ives Junior School on the Explorers Project

A number of school in West Cornwall have undertaken this programme with great success and there will be further opportunities in the next 2 terms for others to take part.


For details of Explorers in West Cornwall contact Ali Law on alaw@cornwall.gov.uk

For details of Explorers in Mid and East Cornwall contact Andy Barclay on abarclay@cornwall.gov.uk

As William Hazlitt once said:

“One of the pleasantest things in the world is going on a journey.”

Happy Exploring