Dr Roger Hopper designed and first used the concepts of the NOLA award while working at a Pupil Referral Unit (Horizons, 2008). The NOLA award is based upon long standing research into Outdoor learning’s impact on personal development and continued to be developed by trialling it in practice within a Special Needs School (Horizon, 2011). One of the main aims of the NOLA award is to capture and celebrate the personal and social change created by outdoor learning, in a measurable manner. The desire to quantify a primarily qualitative change was born out of countless times of not being able to evidence developments. In comparison to mainstream curricula Outdoor learning therefore appeared ineffective.
The current format of the NOLA award and resources, were developed by Dr Hopper, with support from Heatree Activity Centre. A national steering group was formed in 2014 to further the direction of the award and a link with IOL created which has led to NOLA being available as a FREE resource from 2018 for all involved in outdoor learning.