Learning in the great outdoors

Over 2,000 school pupils will transform Edinburgh’s iconic Holyrood Park into the country’s largest outdoor classroom for two days this week.

This is the second year that the City of Edinburgh Council’s Outdoor Learning Challenge event has taken over the park with this year’s event taking place on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 September.

Building on the success of last year the Council’s Sports and Outdoor Learning Unit have got record numbers attending with 2,421 pupils and 48 primary plus two special schools taking part.

A new element this year is a special twilight event with over 200 teachers from across Scotland attending on the Wednesday to try for themselves the activities and see how outdoor learning can be used to benefit their own schools.

Pupils will take part in three 40 minute activities which include: outdoor drama, mountain bike skills courses, orienteering, renewable energy, adaptive bikes, wood working, archaeological excavations, historical walks, cross-country skiing, sensory trail, surveying biodiversity and even sheep bingo!

Cllr Ian Perry, Convener for Education, Children and Families at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The Outdoor Learning Challenge is a fantastic idea which was a runaway success last year so well done to our Sports and Outdoor Learning Unit – and all our many partners – for making this year’s event even more popular.

“It’s particularly encouraging that the twilight event for teachers has proved so popular as this will give school staff lots of ideas and stimulus as to how they can take their regular teaching into the outdoors."

Cllr Alison Dickie, Vice Convener for Education, Children and Families added: “The two days will provide an amazing opportunity to bring together young people from across the city to discover the many exciting and challenging ways you can learn and play in the outdoors and showcase the many providers who operate across the city to support and provide Outdoor Learning experiences."

Fran Hutchinson, Dynamic Earth Learning Officer, said: “We are really excited to be an organising partner in this year’s Outdoor Learning Challenge! Outdoor Learning is a fantastic way of teaching interdisciplinary subjects and the benefits of being out in nature are plentiful.

“This year, Dynamic Earth are running two activities; one learning how to predict the weather and another learning about the amazing work that trees do for us. We’ll be using maths, observational and problem-solving skills to achieve this, all while being outdoors and enjoying the fresh air. Outdoor learning doesn’t have to be complicated or resource intensive, it can be as simple as just stepping outside the classroom!’

Robert May, Holyrood Park Ranger at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said: “We’re looking forward to once again welcoming pupils from all over the city to Holyrood park for the Outdoor Learning Challenge.

“Holyrood Park, with its rich history, fascinating geology and diverse wildlife is the perfect venue to inspire young people and show just how much learning outdoors has to offer.”

Partner organisations who have made the event possible by working with the Council include: Historic Environment Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, students from The University of Edinburgh’s School of Education, Dynamic Earth, The Water of Leith Conservation Trust, Bonaly Outdoor Centre and many others.

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