Teaching in nature - 2011 - Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 476
Scottish Natural Heritage has a remit for people’s enjoyment and understanding of the natural heritage as well as the care of it. The potential for the educational use of National Nature Reserves (NNRs) (and similar ‘wild’ places for nature) is not well understood. This research was designed to enable practicing teachers from primary and secondary schools to collaboratively explore how National Nature Reserves could be used to provide for learning across a range of subject areas.
A wide range of diverse outdoor experiences can be made possible through the intermingling of elements found in natural landscapes and human environments. The implications for models of curriculum design for teaching in nature have been noted. In the cases researched, throughout the planning process and the teaching and learning activities, we had evidence of how elements from both these spheres interacted. While it may be a commonsense argument to remember that people and place-elements come together (perhaps for all curriculum making whether indoors or out), it is less well-attended to in the commonsense view of curriculum planning where precedence is often given to the aims and objectives, and to the sequencing of content or concepts. Curricula can be designed by starting with objectives and aims or by deciding on content in the first instance, but this was not the experience of these teachers. In practice, the empirical evidence suggests a wide variety of other contingent interactions that were occurring between the human and non-human material worlds before and at the same time as aims and objectives and outcomes were emerging. These interacting and emerging factors needed to be understood, attended to and be explicitly accounted for in the on-going and responsive planning processes required for the enactment of outdoor visits. This seemed to require a change in disposition to curriculum making.
Through their work, teachers catalysed new opportunities for learning that were only possible by being outdoors in nature, or facilitated tasks that were enhanced by being there. Teaching in nature disrupted some of the habits ingrained in indoor practices, changing the boundaries and imaginaries of what counted as teaching and learning through schooling. Getting outdoors in nature literally opened the door for a wide range of educative events that we recounted in this report and are explored in the website.