03 SES 04 A, Curriculum, Innovation and Assessment
There is an increasing body of international research that demonstrates the benefits of learning outside the classroom in the natural environment (LINE) that include greater motivation for learning, increased knowledge and understanding, and improved health and wellbeing (Dillon and Dickie, 2012; Foster and Linney, 2007; Mygind, 2009; Passy et al, 2010; Waite, 2011). Recently there has been a wave of popular and natural environment sector support for increased engagement with the outdoors (e.g. Moss, 2012) that has coincided with concerns for school children’s mental and physical health (NICE, 2013; PHE, 2013); problems that are likely become more acute in areas of deprivation where access to green environments tends to be less frequent (Natural England, 2013). In response to these concerns, the English government has pledged to ‘remove barriers to outdoor learning and increase schools’ abilities to teach outdoors when they wish to do so’ (HM Government, 2011, p.4), and have commissioned a three-year project to engage greater numbers of schools in areas of high multiple deprivation in LINE.
The Natural Connections Demonstration Project is located in the south west of England and funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Natural England and English Heritage. The aim of the project is to enhance the use of local natural environments in 200 primary, secondary and special schools in areas on high multiple deprivation to support learning across the curriculum. Now in its second year of delivery, the project is being implemented in five ‘hubs’ of 40 schools, each of which is led by a hub leader and five ‘beacon’ schools that have existing models of high-quality LINE practice. The model is premised on peer supported evolution of practice to build sustainability beyond the life of the demonstration project. An important aspect of the project will be its replicability and amplification both in England and more widely.
Two key elements of the project are
- the identification of priorities for schools in catchment areas with multiple challenges in the home and community life of their students. These challenges may include problems associated with immigration, asylum-seeking, unemployment and disability.
- the design and development of LINE activity that will help schools to address those priorities.
The context for this research is that of a country that arguably emerging from a prolonged recession although less deep than in other European countries, and we will be interested in the ways that possible higher levels of poverty have impacted on these schools’ aims and work.
In theorising the processes at work, we employ Bourdieusian conceptualisations of habitus and the theoretical construct of cultural density (Waite, 2013). Using this framework, we investigate schools’ institutional habitus, which can briefly be described as ‘the way we do things here’. Shusterman (1999, p.5) argues that “habitus acts through its bodily incorporation of social relationships and meanings (i.e. those involving reference to others) but without needing to articulate them in terms of explicit rules or reasons”; it is manifested in unthinking forms of behaviour and action that are taken for granted both in the conduct of relationships and in the approach to teaching and learning. Cultural density refers to the strength and composition of dispositions to practice and norms of behaviour embedded within places that mediate the possibilities for action of individuals in them (Waite, 2013, p.2).
Combining the notion of habitus with cultural density will enable us to explore and explain how schools and places can support and/or obstruct educational and societal aspirations.
Collarbone, P. (2009) Creating tomorrow: planning, developing and sustaining change in education and other public sector services, London and New York: Continuum. Dillon, J. and Dickie, I. 2012. Learning in the Natural Environment: Review of social and economic benefits and barriers, Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 092. Foster, A. & Linney, G. (2007). Reconnecting Children through Outdoor Education. COEO Research Document: Executive Summary, Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario. HM Government (2011) The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature. Available at: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8082/8082.asp. Miles, A.M. and Huberman, M. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis (Second Edition), London: Sage. Moss, S. (2012) Natural Childhood. Available at: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/document-1355766991839/. Mygind, E. (2009). A comparison of children’s statements about social relations and teaching in the classroom and in the outdoor environment. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 9(2), pp.151-169. Natural England (2013) Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: the national survey on people and the natural environment. Annual report from the 2012-13 survey. Available at: http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5331309618528256?category=47018. National Institute Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2013) Managing overweight and obesity among children and young people: lifestyle weight management services. Available at: Overweightandobesechildren@nice.org.uk. Passy, R., Reed, F. & Morris, M. 2010. Impact of school gardening on learning: Final Report to the Royal Horticultural Society. Available at: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening/uploads/documents/Impact_of_school_gardening_on_learning_821.pdf. Public Health England (PHE) (2013) How healthy behaviour supports children’s wellbeing. Available at: http://www.noo.org.uk/data_sources. Shusterman, R. (ed.) (1999). Bourdieu: A critical reader, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd Waite, S. (2013). ‘Knowing your place in the world’: how place and culture support and obstruct educational aims, Cambridge Journal of Education, 43 (4), 413-434. Waite, S. (ed.) (2011) Learning outside the classroom: from birth to eleven, London: Sage. Waite, S., Passy , R. & Gilchrist, M. (forthcoming) Getting it off PAT: researching the use of urban nature in schools. European Outdoor Education Conference proceedings, Stockholm, June 2013
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Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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