Conference was an educational day for early years and teachers

Date 25.06.2021

It was an educational day for early years and teaching professionals, thanks to a University of Northampton (UON) event about the benefits of learning outdoors.

Science Outside the Classroom was hosted by UON and East Hunsbury Primary School on Tuesday 22 June and was geared toward leaders and teachers in early years or primary school.

130 delegates signed up to learn more about the benefits of children learning science outdoors. Delegates came from schools and nurseries science education and outdoor learning organisations based in Northamptonshire as well as other English regions and European countries.

The European Commission co-funded the Science Outside the Classroom Erasmus+ project which is a collaboration of six partner organisations* from across Europe.

750 learners aged 3-11 years from across Europe have participated with their teachers in the inclusive Science Outside the Classroom Project. The aim was to enhance children’s development of scientific enquiry skills and valuable transferable skills in rich and stimulating outdoor environments. Teacher training, support and the project’s research programme were provided by the University of Northampton.

The conference began with an introduction to the Science Outside the Classroom project by Mrs Rita Arundel, East Hunsbury Primary School Head Teacher and Project Leader. The day featured keynote speeches from award-winning expert on outdoor learning and teaching Professor Helen Bilton, and Helen Spring CSciTeach, author and primary science and outdoor learning consultant.

Delegates also enjoyed workshops and presentations of teaching resources developed by project partners. Associate Professor Dr Jane Murray, Principal Investigator for the project research, presented early research findings that will inform a forthcoming research paper.

Research evidence indicates that children’s experiences of learning science outdoors during the project has led to improvements in their well-being, motivation for learning, creativity, social skills and critical thinking.  Positive gains were also identified in children’s scientific enquiry skills.

The Science Outside the Classroom conference is part of a programme of outreach engagement projects spearheaded by the Centre for Education Research (CER).

Other activities from CER include the launch of the newly formed CER Special Interest Groups (SIG). The SIGs are communities for people with similar research interests to meet, discuss and share research, and plan and carry out future research projects together.

There have also been two successful series of spring and summer research seminars. Guest speakers – leaders in their fields – have beamed in from across the globe; two of the summer seminars are still to come.

There’s no need to book; interested parties simply need to note the dates and times and join on the day:

  • Wednesday 7 July, 4:30-5:30pm: Flipped-Classroom and Gamification in Higher Education
  • Wednesday 21 July, 4:30-5:30pm: Creating Identity Texts with Young Children across Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Contexts

Dr Jane Murray, Associate Professor at the University, said: “Taking learning into the great outdoors has never been more important, and with Ofsted focusing on a broad school curriculum, our day conference offered delegates a valuable opportunity to take away innovative ideas and exciting new ways for primary and early years children to learn science.

“At the Centre for Education and Research, we welcome research collaborations with our local, national and international communities. Our new Special Interest Groups are helping us to achieve this; watch this space for updates and new outreach events.”

*The full list of Erasmus+ Science Outside the Classroom Project partners is:

  • CEIBas Arteaga Primary School (Spain)
  • Djecji vrtic Petar Pan Kindergarten (Croatia)
  • East Hunsbury Primary School
  • Frida Forskola Molnlycke Kindergarten (Sweden)
  • University of Northampton
  • Weston Favell Primary School