What is the impact of outdoor education on the lives of pupils with complex needs?
Jean F. Heath
Originating Organisation or Projects
EIS Action Research Grants
When I first began my research into this question, I had originally asked “Does outdoor education have a positive impact on pupils with complex needs?” This question is interesting but it became apparent within a few days of beginning my research into specialist outdoor education that the answer was, overwhelmingly, yes. I chose, therefore, to focus my research on the impact of meaningful outdoor education, rather than on the validity of outdoor education itself.
Outdoor learning is an area of education I have always been interested in. However, I had limited opportunities to engage in outdoor education as a subject specialist in RMPS and Philosophy in mainstream secondary school. 4 years ago, I made the move to Special Education and my interest in outdoor learning was piqued.
Initially, I was fascinated with responses to stimuli and different behaviours my own class displayed when engaging in outdoor learning. As I developed my teaching practice and enhanced lessons for pupils with special educational needs, I gained confidence in my understanding of special education and the place I felt outdoor learning had to offer to young people with complex needs.
I made a funding application for a sustainability garden in my school with designs to provide a specialised, accessible outdoor learning environment for children and young people with learning and physical disabilities.
Funding was granted and the garden was opened in August 2018. It was to form the basis of my research for this paper. However, during my research I was seconded to a promoted post. I have been very fortunate in my current role as Acting Depute Head, therefore, to enjoy a unique opportunity to explore the impact of outdoor learning across two special schools in Edinburgh.