Stepping outside for success. Collaboration celebrates an educational year

Date 31.05.2024

The benefits of classes outdoors for school children, their teachers and education students were celebrated last week at University of Northampton (UON).

The STEP Outside partnership supports UON education students to use outdoor spaces in their professional practice and understand the benefits that outside learning opportunities provide children and schools.

Working alongside the company Teach Outdoors, students and UON academics designed and are piloting a training course for other University students working with school-age children as part of their education degrees to help them explore how outdoor environments can support child development and be a functional learning tool.

Last week, there were two events to mark teaching outdoors, whether at the University or elsewhere.

The first (Thursday 23 May) was a celebration for the STEP Outside students. David Cousens, Deputy Dean of Faculty of Health, Education and Society, himself a former teacher, opened the event offering advice to continue to be creative in the education system, to try to do things differently, to collaborate and to challenge the setting they are in, for the children they teach and care for.

The students’ training means they are also Outdoor Connections Facilitators, adding an extra achievement to their CVs. They received certificates to mark this and their participation in the pilot.

The second event (Friday 24 May) was a conference held at Waterside focused on outdoor learning. Educators examined the potential of outdoor education and discussed how outdoor spaces can serve as effective teaching tools. They also had the chance to participate in interactive workshops.

Teaching Outdoors Conference 2024

Dr Helen Tiplady, Senior Lecturer in Education at University of Northampton is part of the STEP Outside project. She says: “There is a growing momentum across the education sector for schools to capture the opportunities brought by teaching their students outside the classroom. The University is proud to be part of that and to ensure this continues with initiatives such as Step Outside.”

Jo Clanfield, the Managing Director of Teach Outdoors, remarked: “The conference was full of innovative ideas and insights into research on the benefits of outdoor learning. It’s crucial to rethink learning environments to cater to the needs of both children and educators. Since not all children learn effectively while sitting at a desk in a classroom, we aimed to provide educators with a space to develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence in using outdoor learning as a tool for raising standards.”

Find out more about Education courses at University of Northampton.