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Joined Up and Affective!

Published on 24 April 2018

Joined Up and Affective!

IOL CEO Andy Robinsons' - 'Perspective' piece in Horizons magazine 81

(Adjective) Relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes. English Oxford Living Dictionaries

You might reasonably accuse me of banging on a bit about the need for affective experiences in and through the outdoors.  It’s not only me getting excited about the role of outdoor learning experiences that involve significant feeling or emotion.  Natural England’s Strategic Research Group are also clear that environmentally sustainable behaviour and healthy lifestyles are a product of affective experiences in nature.  The concept of Nature Connectedness, so clearly spelt out in DEFRA’s recently published 25 year environment plan, is based on affective experiences leading to personal relevance and care for the natural environment.

So what are we doing about it?  Well quite a few things actually and I’m keen that we all consider the role we play in ensuring that the role of outdoor learning is well understood and valued.

Building understanding of what a series of affective experiences through outdoor learning might look like for children and young people is a priority for me.  Some fantastic work is already being done in Scotland with the teaching population, where it is eight years since the ‘Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning’ was published.  Elsewhere things are less structured and often less progressive….and more importantly across the UK outside of the teaching profession we are only really scratching the surface.  Whilst initiatives like Project Wild Thing and ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ have improved insight and opportunities for some, there is still work to be done to help all understand what a series of affective experiences might look like.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of the child or the parent of a child born in the past 12 months, how readily might that child travel through the next 18 years so that they become an ‘Outdoor Citizen’?  Are we able to articulate the wealth of formal, non-formal and informal outdoor learning experiences that lead to a sustainable connection with nature?  Experiences that benefit their health & wellbeing and equip them with the capability to address the challenges facing the natural environment?  You will have opportunities to contribute to the sector better describing those formal, non-formal and informal experiences in the coming months.  You will be asked to consider how your practice and your organisation’s services and products might be best fit into a map of other outdoor learning experiences.  Please respond to requests to engage with this work.  It has the potential to fundamentally change the way outdoor learning is understood and valued.

As national Governments find ways of joining up their planning and resources (The Department for Education is paying for the development of new models to access outdoor learning as described in DEFRA’s 25 year plan) so the membership bodies in outdoor learning are working in a more joined up manner.  The Institute is working closely with the other members of the Outdoor Council to develop a campaign that will lead to more ‘Outdoor Citizens’.  This campaign will involve developing and promoting a progression framework for outdoor learning from a child and parent’s perspective; an ‘outdoor learning passport’.  Also, initially, it will involve developing a scalable model that builds every primary school’s capacity to support high quality outdoor learning.  Finally, it will build the sector’s capacity to work in partnership beyond the campaign.

This is a time of change for the outdoor learning sector and we all need to recognise our roles in ensuring an increased focus on the needs of those who can and should benefit from affective experiences in the outdoors. 

If you’re feeling the need to influence this agenda and participate more fully then please ensure you attend the first sector wide Outdoor Learning Conference 7th – 9th November 2018.


Photo © Hitori Sushi with CC License


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