Outdoor education is now huge, and can be instrumental in the fight against the pandemic, against a trend in depression and inertia amongst young people, and in raising a positive can-do response towards climate change.
The Association for Science Education on Farming reports that a 2016 study found that three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates. https://www.nfuonline.com/media/strpgvph/inspiring-stem-learning-through-agriculture.pdf Further, that a 2019 study by the National Education Union found that ‘largely mental health issues are on the rise with almost 68% of respondents saying they believe their school is having to deal with more pupil mental health than five years ago.’
So, the development of two education projects developed by the National Farming Union, which involve outdoor learning in real-life contexts, is to be hugely welcomed. Farming STEMterprise (primary) and Farmvention (primary and secondary) come with fully prepared lesson plans closely linked to STEM topics within the curriculum. Agriculture as a topic builds upon the knowledge and experience of all young people with food, to provide learning experiences that demonstrate to children that science is everywhere around us and highly relevant to everyday life. It offers the opportunity to interact with members of the farming community, and increase feelings of security through connections with local people, within the local environment.
Pupils benefit hugely also from learning about how to improve soil health, how to grow their own food, and the relationship of organic farming methods to the fight against climate change. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have offered opportunities to work through five levels of gardening knowledge, and practical competence to school students, via the Schools Gardening Project. https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/school-gardening-awards There are rewards for gaining each level, as well as gaining certificates, beginning softly with gardening books, and already by level 3 pupils will receive packs of plugs of vegetables in autumn and spring, with also a medley of fruit bushes to plant. Pupils are encouraged to grow their own food, to compost, to create wildlife-friendly gardens, and to show business skills by marketing, selling and utilising the profits. They are encouraged to interact with their communities, both as potential customers of produce, and for those unable to garden themselves, who may appreciate the pupils’ gardening skills and practical help.