Learning outside the classroom

Acorn Adventure was one of the first providers of outdoor adventure for schools and groups in the UK. Set up by a former teacher in the early 80’s, Acorn originated from the strong belief that learning outside the classroom provides enormous benefits for young people. This came from Andrew Gardiner’s (Acorn’s founder and owner) personal experience of working with children in and outside of the classroom.

Andrew Gardiner writes:

“My experiences working with children as a teacher in the early ‘80s gave me the passion to set up Acorn Adventure.
A key source of inspiration was to give teachers and young people strong foundations for teaching, learning and life. For several years I had taken students camping and trekking in the Welsh countryside, driven by my own love of the outdoors and childhood memories.  I discovered that these trips were enhancing my relationships with students and improving behaviour and learning back at school.  This made my job easier and more enjoyable and I could see that others could also benefit. Today, the great outdoors is widely accepted to offer powerful learning experiences and of course a valuable counterbalance to the gadget culture. I still remember my own childhood where we were sent outside in the morning and were told not to come back until tea time! Now children rarely explore beyond their back gardens, so the experience Acorn offers is even more important that when we began”.

Acorn is a member of the CLOtC (Council for Learning outside the Classroom) and a LOtC Quality and Adventure Mark holder. The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is the national voice for learning outside the classroom. They believe that every young person (0-19yrs) should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances. You can learn more about the CLOtC by visiting their website http://www.lotc.org.uk/ Here is an interesting article from the CLOtC website about the benefits of outdoor learning and its links to Ofsted inspections and personal and social development:

LOtC website article

http://www.lotc.org.uk/why/personal-and-social-development/
In 2015, Ofsted announced that the new common inspection framework would include a judgment on ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’. Learning outside the classroom can offer significant support to schools’ delivery of this area of the framework.

Attitudes and values

  • Talking about an object in a museum, or visiting a place of worship can give insight into issues, other cultures or periods of history
  • Creating your own work of art can give rise to explorations and understandings about the world and our place in it.
  • A visit to a farm can stimulate debate about animal husbandry and food production, and provide a context for designing a Fairtrade enterprise.
  • Adventure education can provide opportunities to show different skills, such as leadership or teamwork.
  • Seeing a play on the stage can bring a text alive and stimulate conversations about the values and actions of the characters.
  • A residential can provide a different setting for conversations about what we believe and what we think is important.

Adventure education enables young people to test themselves in various ways


Confidence and resilience

  • Learning a new skill, such as map-reading or how to look at a painting, builds independence and confidence.
  • Adventure education enables young people to test themselves in various ways and develop new aptitudes and dispositions.
  • For young people with disabilities, a residential trip can foster independence and give them a rare opportunity to build close relationships outside the family.
  • Planning their own experience or activity helps young people to gain confidence in a wide range of project planning skills. It can develop resilience in dealing with conflicting opinions, and in finding solutions to project challenges.

Communication and social skill

  • A drama workshop requires teamwork and helps to strengthen friendship groups.
  • A residential experience enables staff to get to know young people, and young people get to know each other, discovering different aspects of each others’ personalities.
  • An experience, such as visiting a power station, stimulates discussion and encourages young people to share ideas and opinions.
  • A musical performance gives young people a feeling of achievement and a sense of personal success.
  • Young people planning their own programme or activities gives them a voice and choice and ensures their active involvement.
  • Undertaking voluntary work in the community gives young people a sense of making a positive contribution

Knowledge of the world beyond the classroom

  • Young people who live in the country may encounter a town or city for the first time or vice versa.
  • Environmentalists, town planners, artists, curators, scientists, politicians, musicians, dancers and actors can all act as new and powerful role models.
  • Going to an arts venue can encourage young people to try the experience again.
  • Recording the reminiscences of older people gives young people new insight into their community, and brings

Physical development and well-being

  • Visiting a park, field studies centre or making a school garden all provide physical activity and develop an interest in the environment.
  • Participating in recreational activities help to develop physical well-being and the growth of confidence.
  • Many learning outside the classroom activities can also provide attractive alternatives to competitive sports and can lead to a lifelong interest in healthy physical recreation.Emotional, spiritual and moral development
  • An integrated dance workshop with able bodied and disabled participants can help young people empathise and develop awareness of disability.
  • Activities in the natural environment can encourage a feeling of awe and wonder, and an appreciation of silence and solitude.
  • Visiting a place of worship develops an understanding of religion, reflection and spirituality.
  • Engaging young people in conversations about values and beliefs, right and wrong, good and bad supports their moral development.

Acorn Adventure are members of the Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL), an organisation who supports individuals and organisations who use the outdoors to make a difference for others. - See more at: http://www.outdoorlearning.org.

Here is an interesting article about the benefits of outdoor learning. Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL) website article: http://www.outdoor-learning.org/default.aspx?tabid=213

The potential benefits of outdoor learning are so many that they are grouped below in four broad categories: background, planned, bonus and wider benefits. Background benefits of Outdoor Learning are benefits that arise from spending time in the natural environment.

5 key ways in which exposure to the natural environment is beneficial to human health:

  • Enhanced personal and social communication skills
  • Increased physical health
  • Enhanced mental and spiritual health
  • Enhanced spiritual, sensory, and aesthetic awareness
  • The ability to assert personal control and increased sensitivity to one's own well-being.

Source: Health, Well-Being and Open Space, Literature Review by Nina Morris, OPENspace Research Centre, (2003).


Planned benefits of Outdoor Learning  are benefits that are determined by, or negotiated with, the provider of Outdoor Learning. For example, the City of Salford expects Educational Trips and Visits to help young people to:

  • Develop self esteem, take personal responsibility, co-operate with and respect the needs of others;
  • Extend their personal horizons through greater appreciation and understanding of the world and its peoples around them;
  • Understand the need for sustainable relationships between people and their environment;
  • Enhance practical problem solving and team work skills.
  • Promote a positive and knowledgeable response towards personal health and well being.

"Educational Trips and Visits are particularly effective when young people engage in well planned and structured first hand experiences in small groups, with opportunities to reflect and build upon those experiences".
Source: Educational Trips and Visits, Health and Safety Guidance Notes, City of Salford (Revised 2003)

Bonus benefits of Outdoor Learning arise where participants gain more value than was expected. Such benefits happen more by chance than by design, but they are more likely to happen when there is a highly supportive climate for learning. Wider benefits of Outdoor Learning are benefits to stakeholders such as; families, schools, sponsors, society and future generations (especially in relation to sustainability). Ultimately we are all stakeholders in the success of Outdoor Learning. The more that wider stakeholders are involved, the greater the opportunities for achieving these wider benefits. See more at: http://www.outdoor-learning.org/default.aspx?tabid=213