University of Reading: New course gets children outdoors to learn about climate

Primary school teachers who want to help their pupils understand how their actions affect the climate will benefit from a new online course based around outdoor learning.

The free and interactive course by the University of Reading features a range of outdoor activities to teach young children about sustainability, weather and biodiversity, and differs from other courses that focus on classroom-based learning. It will allow teachers to discover and share knowledge and skills needed to teach climate and sustainability.

University experts in education and meteorology have been involved in the design of the course, titled Teaching Climate and Sustainability in Primary Schools: An Outdoor Learning Approach, to ensure it incorporates reliable scientific information and evidence-based research on teaching methods to connect children to the topic. It will be available on FutureLearn from 28 February.

The course launch continues work by the University to bring climate change into all schools, following a successful Climate Education Summit in 2021 and subsequent work with the Department for Education and other partners on an action plan to give more young people necessary skills to face this global challenge.

Professor Helen Bilton, Professor of Outdoor Learning at the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, said: “To care for the world, you need to love it. To love it, you need to be a part of it. And to be a part of it, you need to spend lots of time out in it.

“Outdoor learning allows children to appreciate the world’s power and fragility. It is a valuable teaching tool and we hope that combining it with the fundamental problem of climate change will equip the next generation with vital skills to help address future challenges.”

Learners who sign up to the course will see outdoor learning activities in action at Floreat Montague Park Primary School in Wokingham, which has introduced a number of sustainability initiatives in recent years. The activities include planting vegetables to learn about food production, investigating food waste and recycling, and discussing the seasons.

Over the course of two weeks (roughly six hours total) they will gain and share advice on overcoming common challenges associated with outdoor learning. The course is intended to help teachers build their own action plans for their own teaching or make an impact on wider climate education at their school.

A discussion forum on the course will be facilitated by Professor Bilton for the first two weeks after it launches, giving learners direct access to a leading expert on outdoor learning and the ability to discuss teaching methods with others.

The University of Reading’s award-winning online courses have reached more than a million people in more than 190 countries since October 2013. The courses provide a window into the wealth of subjects at the University, and have collaborated with partners such as the British Council, EIT Food and the Royal Meteorological Society.

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