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Promotion of Real World Learning can contribute to at least 18 of the 50 National Indicators that feature in the Scottish Government National Performance Framework. More experiences of Real World Learning can help deliver a wealthier, fairer, healthier, smarter, greener and safer Scotland.

Childhood in Scotland has changed dramatically in the space of a generation. For hundreds of years, it has been characterised by active engagement with the natural world and local community. Today, Scottish youngsters spend less than half the time playing outdoors than their parents did. They are less likely to spend time outdoors at school. Adults were four times more likely to access wild places as children – woods, farmland, ponds, hills – than children today. In particular, those from the most deprived areas are much less likely to spend time in the natural world.

Outdoor or ‘real world’ learning, including first-hand experience of the natural world, is one of the most effective forms of education.  It broadens outlooks, improves motivation, nurtures social skills, encourages healthy lifestyles, and creates a sense of place and nature that can create active and politically engaged citizens.

Learning in the natural environment also provides inspirational experiences, which teachers can use as a springboard for wider curriculum work across core subjects. In itself, and by fostering and interest in outdoor activities, it helps keep children and young people fit and healthy, physically and mentally.
In short, Real World Learning helps to provide a foundation for a full life, to which every child and young person should have access.

“Kids noo don’t know how tae play, they really don’t. In the summer holidays, first thing in the morning ye’d be oot and at eleven o’clock yer mother wid be shoutin ye tae come in. Ye’d never be in.”
Royston resident

Why arent Scottish children going outside to learn?

Research commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage has identified many reasons.

These include:

  • School Culture
  • Legitimacy of Outdoor Learning
  • Risk/Litigation
  • Health and Safety bureaucracy
  • Staff confidence and competence
  • Access to suitable outdoor venues
  • Resources – cost, transport, ratios, weather

The SNH report also highlighted the importance of :

  • training opportunities
  • the provision of high quality local resources
  • the inclusion of outdoor learning in HMIe inspection criteria.

Outdoor Learning and a Curriculum for Excellence

Making learning relevant and meaningful to young people underpins a Curriculum for Excellence. Outdoor Learning provides active, hands-on experiential learning that helps deliver all aspects of an excellent curriculum.

“The classroom of the future should not be limited to a classroom at all – an excellent curriculum should go beyond the traditional boundaries and offer real world learning experiences outdoors.”
Taking Learning Outdoors: Partnerships for Excellence – Scottish Executive, 2007


Steven Naughton

Web Manager at Real World Learning Scotland
Learning more everyday, from the wisdom of young and old.

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