By Rachael Albon

@MrBedfordsClass shared his thoughts for this blog;

“I am often talking to the children about when I was their age (in the 1970's!) and as the years go on I do find that what I talk about is becoming increasingly alien to them. Like many of my generation, I spent my childhood playing in long grass, climbing trees, watching birds, catching tadpoles and minnows etc. All this was pretty normal! However in my experience of children today, these are things they either never do or only occasionally, as organised events for example. I feel that it has never been more important for schools to lead the way in re-engaging children with the natural world. As these children grow up how can they be expected to care for something they haven't experienced? As a teacher, I see the vast potential the outdoors and nature has to offer in a broad and balanced curriculum. In fact, we redesigned ours to make use of local resources such as a nature reserve right next to our school. I think the RSPB are doing a great job in encouraging schools to make more use of the outdoors. I am a full time teacher, and nothing I have done took too much time or was additional work. Teachers just making the effort to do a little more will have more effect than perhaps they realise.”

@MrBedfordsClass Wildlife Club created a wild meadow with uncut grass to provide a habitat for a range of invertebrates. The children are passionate about encouraging other schools to adopt a culture change in the way they manage their grounds for wildlife.

This is an excellent example of outdoor learning because it utilises nature to deliver the knowledge and skills teachers would be delivering anyway but the experience enriches the breadth and depth of the curriculum.

The children realised they needed some evidence to support their argument, so they surveyed both the cut grass and uncut grass to measure the rates of biodiversity in each. As you can see from the Twitter posts, the children found only 6 species of plant in the cut areas but an impressive 50+ species in the uncut grass! The range of invertebrates was reflected in these results; with only 3 found in the cut grass and 41 in in the uncut grass.

Now the children have gathered data which strongly supports their campaign, they are working on what comes next.

Learning Opportunities

Most notably, this case study models best practice in outdoor learning because not only is there high-quality learning taking place, but the drive for the project came from the children. The teacher acted to facilitate and guide the children to apply knowledge and skills from science lessons (+maths and English) whilst developing new ones. The children can see a real-life purpose and impact of their project which also acts to empower their pupil voice. 

The science links in this activity are numerous. To get started with this project, the children needed to have some knowledge of habitats to know that leaving the grass uncut would create an environment to support biodiversity. Children could gain this knowledge through some pre-teaching at the start of the unit.

Discussions the children had about the project in advance allow opportunity for children to demonstrate existing knowledge from previous years, knowledge and experiences they bring from home and for the teacher to identify any gaps in knowledge.

In deciding how to conduct a survey, the children had to use skills of scientific enquiry. Not only does this develop their skills in science but lends itself to non-fiction writing for English; gives them an opportunity to work collaboratively and a chance to take a metacognitive approach when.

When conducting the survey, the children would have to use skills of identification by making accurate observations of the plants and invertebrates seen. This could also lead into work on classification. Depending on the age of the children, the level of identification could be differentiated with younger children being supported to notice the differences and similarities in one type of minibeast to the other.

Depending on the year group, this activity could inform a unit about pollination, adaptation, habitats, foodchain/webs plus more.

RSPB Supporting Children's Connection to Nature

At the RSPB we aim to support children to deepen their connection to nature. An individual’s level of “connection to nature” is a theoretical construct and is not something which remains static throughout a person’s life. There are several (broadly similar) measures which exist.
We aim to support children and young people to develop this connection in two ways;

1) by providing quality experiences with nature
2) by giving them opportunities to take action to help nature.
We see these two elements working together and inspiring a child to seek further opportunities to experience nature or to take action to help it; thus, deepening the connection they feel to nature over time.

@MrBedfordsClass have demonstrated both elements in a very organic way; through his quality outdoor learning, the children were given experiences with nature which inspired them to create a wild meadow. 

By creating this wild meadow, the children acted to help nature by giving a home to the plant and invertebrate species.

The children wanted data to count as evidence to prove their predictions and by doing so created another experience with nature. Because of this experience, they are campaigning for other schools to do the same and therefore are taking further action for nature. By campaigning, the children are also getting to use their pupil voice and feel like they are a force for change.

 The figure below illustrates how each activity of this project leads into an experience and/or action for nature;




RSPB’s schools Wild Challenge is a free award for schools which is structured to offer both experiences of nature and the chance to take action to help nature. To achieve each level of the award, schools need to take part in 3 actions for nature activities and 3 experiences of nature activities. For more information click on the link to the Wild Challenge website;