In 2020, it was widely reported that people were connecting with the outdoors and nature more than ever as the Coronavirus pandemic restricted activities and inspired appreciation of the natural world. In Northern Ireland, the ‘Get Into Nature’ campaign encouraged us to respectfully engage with the outdoors without causing damage. The Ulster Wildlife Youth Advocates are keen to see that our connections with nature continues and is not lost in the rush to recover lost academic progress as schools return.
Evidence shows the benefits of outdoor learning include (but are not limited to): improved health and wellbeing, decreased stress levels, has a positive impact on behaviour and increases connections with the environment. It is also particularly important in the current climate as outdoor learning is an ideal setting for enhanced ventilation.
To promote the positive and transformative impact that learning outdoors can have as we progress out of the pandemic, the Ulster Wildlife Youth Advocates have created a series of video resources highlighting the benefits of outdoor learning, methods to overcome commonly perceived barriers and advice for subject-specific curriculum integration.
Anna Kernahan, 18-year-old climate activist and writer from Belfast, Founder of Fridays for Future NI, Amnesty International Bravery Award winner and Youth Advocate, said, “We want to continue raising awareness and education about outdoor learning, highlighting the benefits increased engagement would bring for children, young people and teachers. It is a key way to develop peoples’ care for the environment surrounding us, and enriches a student’s education.”
Frances Logan, final year student at Queen’s University, Vice President of the United Nations Association at Queen’s, UK Youth Ambassador for the ONE Campaign and Youth Advocate, added, “We appreciate that lost classroom time is a concern for many parents, teachers and indeed students. However we feel that this is a crucial time to be delivering a message of positivity about outdoor learning. In order to reduce the strain on education professionals, we have developed a series of online resources in a simple tutorial style, in an effort to remove any stress and provide a template.”