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Fractions or Fires?

Is rural outdoor learning the missing ingredient to a complete education?

Is our education system missing something? We’ve all sat through tedious lessons, chewed gums
through algebraic fractions and daydreamed through Dickens. The confines of a stuffy classroom can sometimes be a difficult place to ignite the attention of students, the outdoor playground and
football pitch tantalisingly visible through the window. The solution? Taking the classroom and the
curriculum outside.

Throughout the UK, rural outdoor learning centres have been operating with a goal to teach young
people basic bush craft skills such as building fires, constructing effective sources of warmth and the art of making everyday essentials through the most natural resources around us. These have been particularly effective in teaching young people about aspects of the natural world and how to
survive in it.

Learning outdoors has been shown to have beneficial economic repercussions too. The German scientific research institute Fraunhofer have found that classes held outside, without the raised levels of carbon dioxide and lack of daylight indoors, created a 2.8% average increase in the academic and behavioural performance of sample primary school groups. Further research revealed that with the enhanced performance of 2.8% would lead to a 6.7%-9.5% increase in the conditional growth of the country (based on the gross domestic product per capita).

Furthermore, outdoor learning projects such as the Natural Connections Demonstration have
swapped desks and chairs for tree stumps and canopy tents with the aim, according to Environment Minister Rory Stewart, of helping the children ‘learn to love nature, and our commitment to nature later in life- respecting it, protecting it, restoring it or simply enjoying it. That’s why it’s so important to give all children the chance to experience the natural world’.

Evidently there is much reason to put stock into the projects concerning rural outdoor education, to
help teachers embrace a natural environment that is right on their doorstep and to teach young
people about how we can best nurture the world we live in. My own experience with rural outdoor learning is certainly one that I will never forget. The Rural Pride Outdoor Learning Centre in Derbyshire kindly agreed to put up with me and my friends for a week, sharpening our bush craft skills and giving us a deeper understanding of the sublime and fickle natural surroundings we slept in.

Under the care of experienced bushcraft mentor and all-round badass Matthew Jackson I learnt how to build a shelter, start a fire and even craft my own cutlery through skinning the bark of trees and whittling objects out of them. Matthew Jackson believes that ‘Outdoor spaces for education and adventure are now becoming an embedded learning tool for kindergarten and forest schools,’ adding that as a nurse and outdoor enthusiast he is ‘thrilled to play a part in a project that will support all aspects of health including depression and loneliness.’

I agree wholeheartedly with Jackson and share his sentiments about the mental benefits of immersing oneself in the outdoors. Even though it took a good chunk of time to get the smell of campfire out of my clothes, I had never wanted less to go back indoors after spending a week at Rural Pride.

If you have an opinion on outdoor education or some fun stories about times you’ve explored the outdoors, then feel free to share your comments with the Galleon.

This content is one individual's opinion and does not represent the opinion of The Galleon. If you disagree with this article or have any further comment to make please email

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