Get colleagues, parents and the local community on board from the start to spread the word of the benefits of outdoor learning and share the load as your learning in local greenspace develops.
Getting colleagues on board
It can sometimes be a challenge to get or keep colleagues on board. Consider the reasons for their reluctance and choose your approach accordingly.
If you used our questionnaire to inform action plan, did this give you any insight? What barriers do they face or perceive? Perhaps they lack confidence, time or just don’t get it.
- Tell colleagues about the benefits of engaging with local greenspace; from your own and your pupils’ experience as well as the research.
- Highlight the policy drivers; not only do teachers have ‘permission’ but they are compelled to help pupils engage with their local area.
- If they are concerned about health and safety, work together to do a risk-benefit assessment or join them on their greenspace.
- Spend time at your greenspace as a whole staff, if possible. You could use the Teaching in Nature approach: learn about your space from the land manager; brainstorm lesson ideas; or just explore and enjoy being there.
- Ask staff to share fond memories of their childhood. Chances are they were outdoors and/or included an element of risk or challenge, which is easier to facilitate in the outdoors. Discuss the benefits of offering this to their learners.
- Involve your learners in convincing a reluctant colleague; this can be very powerful and effective. Can they introduce their greenspace to other teachers or classes; lead some of the activities they have done there; share some of what they have learned and enjoyed?
- Team teach in your greenspace with a buddy class, subject colleague or stage partner.
- Your accomplishments may seem unattainable; share your challenges and how you overcame them as well as the successes.
- Take baby steps: they will be easier to achieve and maintain and, ultimately, embed. Don’t forget to celebrate ‘baby achievements’ along the way!
- Develop school policies and procedures for learning in local greenspace to give colleagues confidence and support.
- Hold a greenspace day each month or term, with inexperienced colleagues gradually taking on more and more responsibility.
- Ask colleagues to take responsibility for a small area of learning in the local greenspace (e.g. Level 1 Literacy or National 5 Art and Design); this will feel less daunting and give them ownership.
- Demonstrate the links with other initiatives to emphasise that this is not another added extra; it can ‘tick more than one box’.
- Highlight professional development opportunities.
- Share films from other schools that are learning in local greenspace to highlight the potential.
- Highlight case studies showing how various schools have overcome their challenges to achieve great benefits.
- This CreativeSTAR blog post may give you inspiration and insight.
- Enlist the help of school leaders. The National Improvement Framework recognises the quality and impact of leadership as one of the most important aspects of the success of any school.
Find out more
Using your local greenspace, including school policies and procedures, links to other initiatives etc.
LtL learning in local greenspace films (Youtube link)
SLC learning in local greenspace films (Youtube link)
Keeping parents involved and informed
Involve parents right from the start. You could:
- Enlist their help to find a greenspace;
- Find out whether they have any expertise, interests or contacts they can share.
- Tell them why you are learning in local greenspace;
- Issue a parental consent form at the start of each year for routine and expected out of school visits within walking distance;
- Ask for parent helpers. Parents live in the local community and can often bring great breadth and depth to learning. Don’t be afraid to learn together with pupils and parents; you should not feel you need to be an expert in everything or put on a performance each time you visit your space;
- Provide support; perhaps develop guidance for parent helpers;
- Share challenges and successes via school blogs, newsletters and displays in school. Invite parents to visit your space and have the pupils share their learning and experiences;
- Acknowledge concerns as soon as possible and address promptly where required;
- Keep a store of spare clothing and footwear for pupils who don’t have/bring suitable clothing, reducing the likelihood of complaints about dirty uniforms or ‘catching colds’. Perhaps ask families to donate items they have grown out of;
- Parental engagement is one of the drivers for improvement in the National Improvement Framework. Involving parents can also help drive your change to do more learning in local greenspace.
Engaging your community
Engage with your local community early in your journey towards learning in local greenspace. Can they help you find a site, establish who owns it or do an initial ‘clean up’?
Involve pupils as much as possible in working with the community, e.g:
- pupils could create and carry out a survey of other users; what do they enjoy about the space, what do they do there? Tap into users’ interests and expertise; is there potential for joint projects?;
- keep neighbours informed of what you are doing and why, through newsletters, posters and leaflets – all created by the pupils;
- pupils designing posters; leaflets; letters and newspaper articles can also be an effective way to address issues such as dog waste; litter and antisocial behaviour;
- hold ‘days’ to share the workload and highlight the positives about what you are doing, e.g. a clean up day; a planting day; an open day.
Partnerships with others may even give you access to funding not normally open to schools.
Partnerships will help spread the load and better embed the use of local greenspace for learning in your school and community. As well as pupils, staff, parents and members of the local community there may be groups and organisations local to you that could help you find, access, improve and/or use your local greenspace.
Be specific about the type of help you require when contacting people and they will be more likely to be able to commit.
- Local Authority staff may be able to help with different elements of learning in local greenspace.
- Does your Local Authority have:
- a SAPOE representative;
- Countryside Rangers (LA or other organisation);
- a Quality Improvement Officer responsible for Outdoor Learning and/or Learning for Sustainability;
- a Greenspace officer;
- an Access Officer;
- a Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) Officer;
- Planning Officers;
- Active Schools Coordinator?;
- and don’t forget your Cluster schools.
- Does your Local Authority have:
- Find out about local employers. Try energy companies, local supermarkets and DIY/builders merchants.
- Local businesses may:
- have some greenspace they would allow you to use;
- undertake volunteering days in the local community: could they help you clean up or improve your greenspace?;
- have a community fund you could access.
- Local businesses may:
- Working together with a local group or charity can bring many benefits and better embed the approach in the local community.
- your local Outdoor and Woodland Learning (OWL) group
- your Community Council
- church groups
- pre-school groups
- care home or groups for the elderly
- groups for people with additional needs
- local natural history groups
- local walking groups
- mental health groups
- local land owners/managers
Do/could any of these groups use your greenspace too? Can they share their knowledge and skills or take responsibility for an area of work? Partnerships with others may even give you access to funding not normally open to schools.
Grants to help you access, use and improve your local greenspace
We cannot provide an exhaustive list of the grants available to help you access, use or improve your greenspace. These are constantly changing; some are only available in certain areas; some only for short timescales. Try:
- local businesses and employers; they often have a community fund, can donate useful items or may be able to offer practical help via staff volunteer days. Just a couple of examples are the Glasgow Airport Flightpath Fund and the Tesco Bags of Help Fund;
- other local partners;
- CreativeSTAR Learning grants list every 6 months;
- email bulletins from organisations like Learning for Sustainability Scotland and TCV;
- Scottish Forestry’s Woods in and Around Towns (WIAT) project, which aims to support the management of urban woodlands;
- your school’s Pupil Equity Fund; many schools are now using this to raise attainment and lose the gap through outdoor learning.
Grants often have short deadlines so it may help to have a list of items or projects in mind with some text ready to go. Different funders will have different grant criteria but, typically, they will want to know how you have or will involve pupils and/or the local community in your project and plans, as well as the benefits the funding would bring.