Nature reserves welcome children and MPs in effort to promote outdoor learning

Nature reserves are hosting their local school children and MPs on Friday 24 June in response to teacher’s demands for more opportunities for children to learn outdoors and have contact with nature

Nature reserves across the UK are today opening their doors to local pupils in an effort to get children outdoors. MPs are also visiting the sites as part of the initiative, which comes in response to new research commissioned by the RSPB.

The Ipsos MORI research asked teachers what would encourage them to do more of their teaching outdoors and found that after additional funding, primary teachers most often said they needed greater access to outside classrooms and facilities.

Children and MPs will participate in outdoor learning experiences at more than 50 sites belonging to the RSPB, the Field Studies Council and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. MPs will be given the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits contact with nature brings to children and will also hear from teachers about the educational value of outdoor learning, the RSPB said.

Kate Humble, RSPB president and TV wildlife presenter, said that learning and playing outdoors is an essential part of childhood. “If a child hasn’t ever got their hands dirty, climbed a tree or been wowed by weird and wonderful pond creatures, how can we expect them to care enough to protect wildlife?”

“Children of all ages benefit from real life hands-on experiences where they can see, hear, touch and explore the world around them”

She added: “Learning in the outdoor classroom, whether in their own school grounds, on a day visit to a nature reserve or during a residential stay, is proven to be of enormous educational advantage. Children of all ages benefit from real life hands-on experiences where they can see, hear, touch and explore the world around them.”

The RSPB, the Field Studies Council and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust welcome nearly a quarter of a million children and young people to their centres each year. All their sites already hold, or are working towards gaining, the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom’s Quality Badge – the first national accreditation scheme for all types of outdoor learning for children.

The three organisations said they believe that every child should have regular contact with nature, whether in their school grounds, local environment, further afield, or with family and friends. Despite evidence about the positive impacts contact with nature brings to a child’s education, health and wellbeing, many children are still missing out on these crucial experiences, they said.

In its recently published environment white paper, the government committed to removing unnecessary rules and barriers to outdoor learning. It also indicated that its pupil premium – funding intended to support children from low-income families – could be used by schools to give fairer access to nature for pupils from deprived backgrounds, for example funding outdoor trips. It is up to individual schools how the premium is used.

Rob Lucas, chief executive of the Field Studies Council, said: “Schools, parents and MPs agree that getting children outdoors in nature is a good idea.”

Commenting on the initiative that is taking place today, Lucas added: “This event reinforces the enormous benefits to be gained from regular contact with nature for children. We hope Government, schools and local authorities work together with providers of learning in the natural environment to find ways to get every child outdoors. We will continue to monitor progress in achieving this and hold the Government to account on its commitments in the White Paper.”