Dundee Nature Schools offered a professional learning (CLPL) programme for teachers across Dundee, with enhanced support for 5 Nature School leads. This project ran from November 2022 to June 2023.
The Nature STEM CLPL programme aimed to increase confidence in teachers to support biodiversity learning and teaching across Dundee schools, across different outdoor settings. The nature and outdoor learning elements included follow up tasks and ongoing teacher support to ensure the professional learning was put in to practice.
The professional learning themes included nature film making and camera trapping, biodiversity in school grounds, weather/ renewables, soils, birds, trees and woodland, gardens, greenspace and coastal habitats.
Dundee Nature Schools was co-ordinated by the RAiSE Primary STEM Development Officer, Children and Families Service, Dundee City Council, and funded by NatureScot.
The Nature School Project Leads completed an application to take part in the project, which was signed off and supported by the Head Teacher. They had to commit to attending each CLPL session within the programme – a total of 11 sessions. Their schools were then funded to provide cover to allow the Leads time out of class to plan and team teach lessons with colleagues to cascade the learning. Funding also included the provision of resource kits to support each CLPL theme.
Nature Clusters were established and led by 5 Dundee Nature School Leads from the following schools: Fintry Primary School, Mill of Mains Primary School, Rosebank Primary School, St Andrews Primary School, plus Longhaugh Primary School in the first stage of this programme.
Grove Academy and St Pauls High School also took part in some sessions in the later stages.
Locations used to deliver the CLPL sessions included school grounds, Camperdown Park, a community garden, Dundee & Angus College (ponds), Broughty Ferry beach. Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve provided a special setting for a final informal review with the lead teachers.
Additional support was also provided by the Dundee City Council Countryside Ranger and a professional filmmaker.
Approximately 12 practitioners were supported in each of the participating schools by each of the 5 Nature School leads, to begin teaching Nature STEM.
A celebratory element was provided by a film screening event at the end of the project. Classes from lead teacher schools showcased their nature films in NatureScot's Battleby Centre.
Evaluation of the project included teacher personal/ learning nature journeys, outdoor learning practice and pupil impacts. Nature connectedness measures were also tested for Nature School Project Leads, Nature School Staff and Nature School Learners, as well as open questions were asked to gauge learner’s views about nature. Slight increases in nature connectedness scores were recorded for both teachers and pupils.
The Nature Schools project leads reported an increase in confidence in teaching STEM from 64% to 98% and an increase in confidence in leading outdoor learning from 60% to 90%.
81% of Staff in Nature Schools said their confidence in teaching STEM had increased as a result of the project. There was an increase in STEM confidence from 55% in the pre project survey to 75% in the post project survey and an increase in confidence for outdoor learning from 59% to 74%.
"Barriers are now definitely a lot lower." Educator
"I love nature now thanks to Nature Schools." Pupil
"Now I really like going for walks in the woods, and just being outside. I have changed my mind about a few things, I used to think nature was kind of boring but now I really like it and want to help nature more in the future." Pupil
"I really loved being part of this project and would love to continue it in P6." Pupil
Key to the success of this work was the ongoing support for educators provided by RAiSE Primary STEM Development Officer in helping educators apply the professional learning to their practice, supported by a partnership approach between Dundee City Council Children & Family Services, Dundee City Council Countryside Ranger Service, and NatureScot.
The Nature School teacher leads also valued the collaboration and support provided by their project cohort.
"It was an amazing learning journey - a brilliant opportunity to upskill myself and share with colleagues thereby providing excellent learning experiences for our learners. The team-teaching opportunity alongside Nature Schools was particularly useful. It showed how to structure a lesson and make full use of resources available." Educator
The Dundee Nature Schools report provides key learning points to help us to plan future interventions for nature and placed based learning in school.
Recommendations from our Learning in Local Greenspace project included providing support to educators for longer to increase the likelihood they will continue to use local greenspaces for learning and teaching.
Our recent research also highlighted this need, recommending 10 professional learning experiences per educator to ensure they feel confident to deliver learning outdoors.
Please get in touch with [email protected] if you would like to find out more, or explore further ways to support Dundee’s educators, children and young people to learn outdoors in nature.
Link to schools' films to follow