CAUSEWAY Coast & Glens Heritage Trust, through the Heart of The Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme have been working on a fantastic outdoor learning project with 11 local primary schools in The Glens of Antrim.
The main aims of this project were to engage young people in understanding the range of important sites, habitats and species around them, and to encourage interaction with the natural environment within their own school grounds and further afield.
It may seem unthinkable that even in one of Ireland’s most beautiful landscapes, children still do not have a deep connection with the outdoors. However, even in The Glens the impacts of technology, lifestyle changes and the health and safety culture has, for many children, reduced the centuries-old connection between young people and the natural world.
International research has shown that there is a continuing disconnection between children and the environment which is set to have long term negative implications for children’s health and wellbeing. A recent National Trust study in the UK cites alarming figures for children “the growing disassociation of children from the natural world and internment in the ‘cotton wool culture’ of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience.”
Conversations with teachers has informed us that they often feel that they themselves are barriers to the incorporation of outside learning into the curriculum. The main perceived barriers include a lack of basic knowledge in biodiversity issues, health and safety issues for children outside the classroom, costs for travel to access nature and finding ways of bringing outdoor learning into the school curriculum.
Confidence amongst teachers, has been identified by experts and by teachers themselves as the major obstacle in developing outdoor learning.
The final piece of work in this project was the creation of a resource to enable teachers to develop ideas and lesson plans for working in their new outdoor learning zones and beyond.
Plans were created which can be customised to suit each school environment, pupils age and individual school curriculum.
School teachers from primary schools across The Glens attended regular meetings over an 18-month period to work collaboratively and share ideas on outdoor learning. The teachers themselves decided that the best way forward was to work together to create a resource that could be used by all schools. Schools came up with various lesson plans and several teachers from different schools came together to compile these lesson plans into one shared
teachers resource. The official launch of the Outdoor Learning Resource was held on Wednesday, November 22 at St Patrick’s Primary School in Glenariff.
Laura McAuley, Outreach & Volunteer Project Officer for Heart of The Glens LPS said: “This resource is a fantastic tool which will enable teachers to continue the great work the LPS have been doing with local primary schools. Legacy is important in all the projects that we are working on and being able to provide a resource that can be used for all primary schools from foundation stage to key stage 1 and 2 is a fantastic achievement for all those who
worked on this project.
“I would like to thank all the teachers who got involved in this project, be it through giving up their time to attend twilight sessions, providing a venue and refreshments at these gatherings, and the volunteers who helped to install some of the outdoor habitat equipment. It is heart-warming to see so many schools who have the passion and drive to bring outdoor learning into the school curriculum”.
For further details about our projects and events visit www.heartoftheglens.org or Facebook and Twitter.