Outdoor Learning: Review of the year
Photo above was taken in December 2019 before Covid-19 restrictions
This year has been a year like no other in so many ways and for The Parks Trust Outdoor Learning Team this has been no exception.
The year started well, with several primary schools and community groups getting out in the chilly weather to explore how the parks change with the seasons and learn more about their local natural environment. Tree Tots continued to thrive with toddlers getting creative in the mud, and our Adult walks, talks and workshops ranged from Wetland birds to Whittling. For secondary schools, lots of careers events took place, providing a fantastic opportunity to engage with students of all ages about their future career plans and what The Parks Trust does. It was great to see how excited students get when they learn that there are careers that involve climbing trees and using chainsaws! For many of them it is the first time that they can see the link between gaining a skill in an areas, such as accounting or marketing, and how this can lead to working within a sector that they are passionate about, such as the environment.
Some early highlights included working with students from Milton Keynes College on their team work and confidence skills, and creating a Robin Hood Survival Day for students from White Spire School to coincide with World Book Day. Students and staff arrived in fabulous costumes and had fun trying their hand at survival skills, learning how to be Outlaws in the woods without having a negative environmental impact.
Then lockdown happened and we all started to wonder if we would be needing to use our survival skills for real! The Outdoor Learning Team were quick to adapt to a different style of delivery and we began to produce learning resources for all those who were stuck at home. This included creating ‘how to’ videos to show people how to make items such as bird feeders, and lots of games, spotter guides and ID sheets for learners of all ages. These proved to be a real hit and something that we are continuing to develop. All of our free resources can be found here. If there is something that you would like to see in our online resources section, please let us know.
The school holidays provided an opportunity for us to offer some family outdoor learning sessions as an alternative to our usual Open Days. The pond dipping and bug hunting activities were well attended at Howe Park Wood and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve. We are very grateful, as always, to our team of Outdoor Learning volunteers who supported us with running these events.
With the new school year now well underway, it is great to see lots of schools and community groups planning ahead and booking outdoor learning sessions for the coming months. We are lucky in MK that most schools are within 20 minutes walk of a local park and many organisations want to ensure that children are able to understand the importance of their local greenspaces. Schools have taken the opportunity to take part in our Acorn Growing Project, organised litter picks and continue to book sessions with us. For those that still can’t venture out, we have added to our virtual content – offering some live activities and offering a new online assembly for all Primary schools. You can find out more about our Outdoor Learning offer here.
Strange as this year has been, one positive that we have seen in 2020 is that many people seem to have reconnected with nature, and hopefully this will be a lasting change. The Outdoor Learning Team would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year, and we look forward to seeing you out in the parks in 2021.