Education and the great outdoors

Jonathan Hughes D’Aeth, Senior Advisor, Carfax Education on how education and learning go far beyond the classroom walls.

Confucius was right when he observed “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.

As a former geography teacher, it didn’t matter how engaging my lessons were on the different
types of folds and faults in rocks, a picture would always help. But, even better was to take pupils to see and touch actual examples in the field. That they would remember!

The origins of outdoor education is based on the thinking of several eminent educational thinkers including Montessoriand Kurt Hahn, and has taken shape in activities such as Forest School, The Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemes and the Scouts and Guides Movement. All of these organisations promote the developmental potential of learning outdoors.

For kindergarten age children, research shows that learning outdoors provides controlled challenges that stimulate the senses and encourage children to build confidence, develop communication and physical skills and deepen their knowledge and understanding.

For all age groups, being out of a formal school setting helps to develop those hard to measure qualities such as resilience, initiative, team work, responsibility, patience, respect and the ability to consider and take risks.

Outdoor education can take place in a wide range of settings whether it is kayaking across an old gravel pit or trekking through a wild and remote mountain area. It could be bird watching from the margins of a sewage treatment plant to a camping in a national park.

From Chemistry to History, from Music to Maths, Physics to Art, learning and development can be enhanced by being in an outdoor setting. An exciting classroom can go some way in stimulating all the senses, but being outside and experiencing it in person, cannot be replicated easily in even the best of virtual-reality based learning.

While pictures in a classroom of a distant galaxy or even the moon are valuable, it does not compare with awe of stargazing at night. Memorable outdoor practical field trips, studies and expeditions are brilliant for not only developing subject knowledge but also promoting social and emotional development in the young.

And best of all, Outdoor Education provides children with memories that last a lifetime, with much fun and laughter (as well as the occasional tear and blister). These opportunities help to develop a knowledge of themselves, evaluating risk taking, decision making and prepare them for coping with life as an adult.

Whether the Field Trip or the school residential, the Duke of Edinburgh award or ski trip, such ventures play a vital part in helping children grow both academically and as people. They learn much about themselves and others by being challenged physically and intellectually and by learning through experience in a natural setting.


Visit to find out more how they can support your child’s education.


Image source Pixabay

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