The Natural Connections Demonstration Project funded by DEFRA, Natural England and English Heritage, and recently contracted to Plymouth University, is one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK. This highly innovative 3 year Project (2012-2015), working in more than 200 schools across the South West of England, aims to significantly increase the number of school aged children experiencing the full range of benefits that come from learning in natural environments.
Natural Connections Management Group including the National Trust, RSPB, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, Volunteering England and the English National Parks Authorities Association have strongly recommended a large-scale (200 plus schools), 4 year Demonstration Project as the most effective way to practically test, assess and evaluate all aspects of the proposed outdoor learning service for schools. The Project approach and design is informed by the latest insight research of teachers needs, evidence of barriers and benefits of learning in natural environments and best practice models for engaging volunteers. The aim is for the Project to be self-funding by the 3rd year.
Following a European–wide tendering exercise Plymouth University was selected to deliver the 3 year Demonstration Project (2012-2015) to more than 200 schools in 5 areas across the South West of England:
Working with a range of local, regional and national delivery partners the Project will target schools that currently provide little or no learning in natural environments, often schools from deprived urban areas, recruiting volunteers from the local community to build capacity in their local school, while enabling the school to access the wealth of resources, skills and expertise available in their local community. As such the Project is founded on two core principles in the Natural Environment White Paper of voluntary action and fair access to the natural environment.
Over the next 3 years the Project will deliver:
If you would like to contact the project, or sign up to the monthly newsletter, please email NaturalConnections@plymouth.ac.uk
As part of the Natural Connections launch event on 2 July 2013, Plymouth University presented a short film showing some activities taking place in some of the schools already signed up to the project. There are also interviews with some of the inspiring teachers already seeing the benefits of taking their lessons outside.
(5 July 2013) Coinciding with Empty Classroom Day – which celebrates all teaching activities that take place in the fresh air – a new web service is launched today to help teachers to deliver more outdoor learning.
(2 July 2013) A ground-breaking project which aims to significantly increase the number of school-aged children experiencing the full range of benefits that come from learning outside the classroom in natural environments has been launched today at Glenfrome Primary School, Bristol.
The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is a national charity which exists to promote and champion Learning Outside the Classroom. The charity's objectives are that all children and young people can benefit from increased opportunities for high quality and varied educational experiences because research shows that children learn best through real life experiences.
(11 March 2013) The Natural Connections Demonstration Project is a pioneering project which will give children a whole range of benefits from learning outside in natural environments. Its logo, designed by a 12 year old competition winner, was unveiled earlier this month.