The National Network for Outdoor Learning recently gathered at Camperdown Country Park in Dundee for their first meeting of the 2012/2013 session. The network is made up of representatives from each of our 32 local authorities (a lead education officer and a SAPOE officer) as well as partners from key national outdoor learning organisations and groups. Our remit is to
- work together to generate innovation and creativity in outdoor learning practice, especially as regards Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning (CfEtOL) and Building Your Curriculum Outside and In BYCOI)
- take forward a cohesive whole community approach to CfEtOL at a strategic local and establishment level
- share our emerging practice and to support and encourage each other in those developments
- cultivate genuinely new approaches to learning and teaching through high quality professional learning and development programmes
- most importantly, increase opportunities for children and young people to regularly and frequently access their learning across the curriculum through a broad range of high quality experiences in outdoor learning.
Here is some of our group reflecting on how well things in outdoor learning are moving forward strategically in our nation. Ali Hammerton drew us a map of Scotland in chalk and we used a series of weather symbols to feedback from our experiences of working on implementing CfEtOL in our own contexts. The overall picture was one of very ‘sunny’ weather – a bright outlook created by all the great work going on in local authorities from launching their Council outdoor learning strategies, to increasing opportunities for all children and young people to engage in literacy and numeracy outdoors and to creating new programmes for adventure and residential activity based on geography, technologies, sciences and history.
At lunchtime, we were delighted to join a large crowd of local people attending the launch of Dundee Partnership’s outdoor learning strategy. Thanks to Derek Napier, Outdoor Education Team Leader for Dundee, we were treated to a fabulous display of outdoor activity and to some fine speeches outlining the benefits of outdoor learning for all ages and communities.
We spent some time hearing from network members about how they were taking CfEtOL in their own contexts. Many thanks to John Garvie, chair of Highland Outdoor Learning Group, who shared the development of Highland’s Outdoor Learning strategy and the work that is going into its implementation. Willie White from East Ayrshire outlined the process that his local authority strategy group has gone through in developing their approach to outdoor learning and Sue Thorburn from Aberdeen City shared how their many 3-18 Places Projects are bringing literacy alive in the outdoors as a key part of their stratgic implementation of CfEtOL.
The final part of our day together was spent hearing from members sharing their expertise in developing an outdoor nursery, curriculum links to the land use strategy, professional recognition in outdoor learning and in planning for the Year of Natural Scotland. What a wonderful day – so encouraging to be with people who are totally committed to supporting outdoor learning across Scotland with such passion and strength!