Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Outdoors education is worth more...

It is very welcome that the Government is encouraging schools to expand
opportunities for learning outside the classroom ('Let's put school trips
back on the curriculum', Post, November 29). However, I have to ask
whether they have allocated it all the money it needs and deserves and
whether they have allowed schools to build in the time and flexibility
really needed to make the most of opportunities. The National Curriculum
needs to be trimmed down significantly or made more flexible in my view,
to make more time available for things like educational visits and
fieldwork, as well as perhaps giving students greater choice of what to
study so that they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and having
a stake.

We should not forget that there is more to education than the school
classroom. This is particularly important not least for environmental
education, whose profile surely needs to be raised given that we all need
to live more sustainably. I'd like to see all Bristol’s schools working to
carry out environmental education: in and through the environment as a
resource; about the environment by imparting knowledge; and for the
environment by encouraging students to formulate caring values, attitudes
and practical actions in their environment; and by developing the skills
needed to study the environment in students.

I'd strongly encourage schools to use relevant first hand resources and
real life experiences. Activities outside the teaching room should be a
natural extension of the working environment. Skills of enquiry and
exploration within local areas could be contrasted with environments
elsewhere. Communication skills could be developed by reporting on
enquiries and research. Self reliance, responsibility and independence
would be encouraged by working out in the environment. An understanding of
place, time, change and relationships using actual environmental
phenonmena is surely a very good and much needed goal.

Being out in the environment is a great way to develop students
understanding and knowledge of: natural processes; the dependence of life
on the environment; human impact; environments past and present; the
effects of past and present decisions on the environment; how decisions
are made about the environment at local, national, European and global
levels; the role of individuals; the cross border nature of pollution; key
topical issues of the time like climate change; the pros and cons of the
whole range of views; and the importance of planning, design and effective

I want schools to develop: interest in and appreciation of the
environment; care for living things and their habitats; respect for the
environment through
study and activity; ability to think clearly and seek solutions
creatively; ability to perceive conflicting interests. Encouraging this
through activity out in environment is worth much more than the £2.7
million package the Government announced to help widen access. Its a start
which will make some impact of course, but with 8 million students going
on trips each year that's only 34 pence per student extra !

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