The importance of active learning The impact of COVID-19 is continuing to be

felt across all areas of the extracurricular experiential learning sectors and, following the initial COVID-19 Impact Surveys, over 70,000 under 18s and 20,000 over 18s have been missing out on valuable outdoor learning experiences since the first quarter of this academic year.


n our second look at school trips this month, Nigel Miller, Managing Director

of Active Learning Group & Chairman of Outlook Expeditions highlights the importance of outdoor learning after a survey revealed students have been missing out on valuable experiences due to COVID-19.

Wordsworth once said ‘‘let nature be your teacher’’ and it’s hard not to imagine what he would think of the state of outdoor education in 2020. I have been involved in the education sector for nigh on twenty years and I will continue to support my peers as they negotiate their way through whatever barriers arise. But frankly, this has been an unimaginably difficult time for us all.

Extreme importance Teachers, parents and guardians across the UK know that outdoor environments offer massive potential for a myriad of learning opportunities. Prior to COVID-19, schools (including early years education) were encouraged to not only introduce, but rather showcase, all of the extracurricular and outdoor learning opportunities delivered by their school, with an incentive for those doing it well. Outdoor learning and forest schools were creating industry headlines, whilst primary and secondary timetables and school trips were held in extreme importance on the academic calendar. Furthermore, school educational trips, from

one day classroom extensions, to four-week life changing, expeditions pre-COVID, was on the rise, with thousands of pupils aged 11 to 18 spending one to two of weeks during the academic years and up to four of weeks in their own time during school holidays. The common driving force in all my education

sector experience is the desire to inspire and support children to try something new, experience a sense of ‘team’ and to feel safe while working outside their comfort zones. My purpose has always been that I want to help children develop character whilst building


essential skills within environments that promote and enhance their wellbeing.

Character and resilience Expeditions, for example, fully encompass what it means to build character and resilience in young people. At Outlook Expeditions we work with pupils for 18 months, guiding them through planning sessions, UK outdoor and leadership skills training, and we also support them with fundraising which in turn helps to develop entrepreneurial skills. The programme, with its themes of leadership and empowerment culminates in an overseas expedition, usually to a developing country, that includes a wide range of challenges to put them to the test. With further lockdown restrictions announced

just this week, the value of outdoor education is becoming more and more important to primary and secondary schools. Research has shown that UV light, fresh air and a reduction in hard surfaces significantly reduce opportunities for COVID-19 to be transmitted. An outdoor learning environment assists in minimising exposure to potential infection while also encouraging good physical health and wellbeing.

Three R’s Unfortunately, while schools recognise the value of outdoor learning, current Government restrictions and the need to recover lost face-to- face teaching time has put outdoor education back more than a couple of decades, with the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) seemingly taking priority across all education faculties, regardless of the overall cost to the pupils, the teachers and the wider community.

January 2021

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