With our education programmes, often we see the benefits to children and hear about the subsequent impact on their learning and behaviour. It’s easy to forget that learning outside the classroom is good for adults too.
A 2011 report commissioned by Natural England highlighted some of the direct benefits to children of learning in natural environments. The report found that teachers also benefit – and not just by having a day out.
They gain from it, said the report, by “becoming more enthusiastic about teaching and bringing innovative teaching strategies to the classroom. Schools also benefit from teachers taking more ownership and leadership in school change.”
At ECT we see this first-hand. Teachers get the chance to step back and observe the children in a different environment. Often they notice positive traits for the first time – it could be a child’s knowledge or enthusiasm for the natural world, hitherto gone unnoticed.
Teachers also enjoy the same benefits as children – they get a day of fresh air and go home more relaxed and fulfilled. By coming out of their classroom comfort zone into the natural world, perhaps they also learn something about themselves.
We see this effect on parents and other adults attending visits. Occasionally, ECT hosts business groups interested in learning about our estates, visits from organisations such as the WI, and we have undergraduates here on field trips and farm visits.
Increasingly we are ‘training the trainers’; running Forest School Leader Training (pictured) and whole-school INSET training sessions to inspire teachers with the enormous possibilities of taking the curriculum outdoors.
Christina Dee is founder of the Forest School Learning Initiative which works in partnership with ECT to train teachers in outdoor learning. “For many teachers involved in Forest School, it’s the favourite part of their week,” she said.
“It’s such a calming and relaxing environment compared to the average classroom, and they see a totally different side to the children when they’re outside. And I think it makes them feel more empowered to do what they were trained for – helping children to learn.”