Countryside Classroom - Connecting schools with food, farming and the natural environment

Growing Schools has been re-launched as Countryside Classroom, the largest ever partnership of organisations who are committed to helping children learn about food, farming and/or the natural environment.

It is the vision of Countryside Classroom that schools and teachers across the UK will embrace food, farming and the natural environment as essential components of a broad and balanced curriculum, incorporating them into day-to-day learning. As a result of this, every child will have the opportunity to learn about and experience these topics in diverse ways that are increasingly supported by experiences outside the classroom.

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Natural Connections Demonstration Project

The Natural Connections Demonstration Project is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England and English Heritage, and is led by Plymouth University’s Institute of Education. To make sure we gather the necessary evidence to inform future work, it is both a delivery and evaluation project that aims to:

1. Stimulate the demand from schools and teachers for learning outside the classroom in natural environments (LINE)
2. Support schools and teachers in building LINE into their planning and practices
3. Stimulate the supply of high quality LINE services for schools and teachers

The 3½ year-long project (September 2012 – March 2016) is involving around 200 schools and between 200-500 volunteers in the south-west of England in LINE. Primary, secondary and special schools are included within five areas of high multiple deprivation: Plymouth, Torbay and Devon, Cornwall, North Somerset and Bristol, with around 40 schools in each of these hubs. Around five ‘Beacon Schools’ that are already successfully engaged in LINE have been recruited in each hub and are working with a cluster of around seven schools each. Around 120 schools across the south-west have now been involved with project activities and we recorded around 4,500 children taking part in LINE activities during November 2013.

 

The leaders in the five hubs are developing distinct approaches to successful experiential learning for children, and each hub has run a range of continuing professional development (CPD) sessions for teachers to support and enhance teaching and learning in local schools. Having LINE as a regular feature in schools means that potentially all children will have the opportunity to develop a love of nature and to be taught in ways that suit their learning styles.

The project will be supported through four central elements:
1. A brokerage system to link schools with outdoor activity providers that are already experienced in teaching and learning outside the classroom. The central team at Plymouth University and partners have been developing resources and providing highly successful CPD workshops for teachers, including Teach IT Outdoors, Fundraising for Outdoor Learning and Teach on the Beach

2. A dedicated web service that is

  • Supporting schools with easy access to resources and activities that support LINE
  • Signposting users to other learning outside the classroom guidance websites
  • Developing  a bank of local and national outdoor learning providers to support teachers

3. Support for LINE by linking skilled volunteers from a variety of backgrounds to schools

4. A robust evaluation to inform future practice and scaling up in other regions in the light of evidence generated from the project.

Please feel free to pass this information on to others who may be interested. For further information, or to enquire how to get involved, please email us at naturalconnections@plymouth.ac.uk.

 
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