School Children Playing Outdoors

Why Schools Should Encourage Learning and Playing Outdoors


The global Outdoor Classroom Day is led by Semble, a founding partner of the movement. Semble works with respected environmental and educational NGOs around the world to deliver locally relevant campaigns.

Cath Prisk

Hi, I’m Cath Prisk, I am the global director for outdoor classroom campaign based with the social enterprise Semble, who exist to drive positive change from the grass roots up. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you all. I believe more than 500 of you on Zoom and many more from around the world on Facebook, to the Outdoor Classroom Day campaign webinar. Do please say hi in the chat or the comments, tell us where you’re from and how your schools are getting outdoors during these COVID times. Any challenges and solutions that you found and of course any questions you have for any of our panellists. Most of us know the power of the outdoors, the difference loving the outdoors can make for our children. I recently had the pleasure of teaching a wonderful class of 8 to 9 year olds, all outdoors. One girl was very noticeably trying to hide at the back, looking a bit miserable. Something had happened. We broke off into groups to go off exploring and digging and crafting and about an hour later she came up to me with great excitement to show me some snails. The sadness of earlier washed away by a bit of light rain, a bit of wind and the touch of nature. Children who are outdoors get sick less often, they’re more active, they’re less stressed and they love both play time and lessons and their teachers are often happier too, I know I am.

Outdoor Classroom Day was set up by a London educator Anna Porch back in 2012. Eight years later our simple campaign is in over 177 countries reaching almost 10 million children all around the world and we’ve got dedicated campaigns in 10 countries and our resources on play times, outdoor learning and risk benefit have been translated into more than 20 languages. That growth is made possible by the funding from our Unilever partners, and if any of you know of any other funders who would like to help us grow even more, please do get in touch.

For some, Outdoor Classroom Day is their very first step in taking lessons outdoors. For some it’s just one class. For others it’s a celebration of years of investment in their grounds, in their teacher training, in their play times and for them they take all two, three, 4,000 pupils all outside, age three to 18, all for the whole day. Wherever you are on that journey I know that you will love today’s speakers. I’m going to hand you over now to our UK and Ireland campaign lead, Carley Sefton, the chief executive of Learning through Landscapes. Thank you.

Carley Sefton

Thank you so much Cath for that wonderful and as always passionate introduction. It’s just always lovely to hear you speak. Hello everybody and welcome. I hope you’re comfy, as always I have a pot of tea, my cup and I am ready for this, I am so excited for our speakers today and I’m getting even more excited I see the list of people from around the world. It’s so great to welcome people from South Africa, Vancouver and the States. I just know some that are flashing past me as I talk to you now. So onto our most important bit, our speakers. Over the next hour we are going to hear from some key leads around the world in outdoor learning and play, and then we’re going to finish off with a question and answer session. So please do pop your questions either in the Facebook chat or the Zoom webinar chat, and if you see a question you would like answered, like it, because that boosts it up for us and we can try and get as many of the important questions as we can through. So  I’m going to introduce all our speakers and tell you a little bit about them before I introduce Matt to kick us off. So Matt Robinson I know very well as he’s the Scotland Director of Learning through Landscapes. Matt is a trained teacher and has a wealth of experience of running outdoor learning centres to teaching in the classroom. Following Matt will be Michael Follet who is the founder for Outdoor Play and Learning, known as OPAL. Now I believe currently Mike may be having some technical difficulties and if they don’t get sorted, Cath will be delivering his presentation. Then we have Josefina Prieto who is the co-founder of the Fundacion Ilumina who is based in Chile. So welcome and what’s so lovely is that Josefina leads our Outdoor Classroom Day campaign in Chile as well as running the foundation and has a wealth of experience. And finally today we’re going to hear from Tati Lindenberg. Tati is the VP Marketing and Director for Unilever Dirt for Good campaign and you’ve been such an amazing support for Outdoor Classroom Day over the years and we’re so glad you could join us today Tati.

At 5 O’ Clock I’m hoping because I’m a bit strict on time, we will be running to schedule and then I will be opening it up to questions, so please as we go through, Matt and I and the back stage team here will be keeping an eye on your questions and like I say, do boost them so we can make sure we answer the ones that people are really interested in hearing the answers for.

So I hope pretty much bang on time, I’m going to be handing over the Matt Robinson now to talk us through some tips and tricks for any teachers looking at curriculum led outdoor learning. Over to you Matt.

Matt Robinson
Hey afternoon everybody. Again I will try and stick to time but welcoming. What I want to do for the next few minutes is just talk through some ideas, maybe not from the point of view of here’s a lesson idea, I think there’s lots and lots of those out there already, but more from how do you persuade some of your colleagues to get outdoors? How do you bed this in schools, how do you make learning outdoors just part and parcel of good outdoor learning and play whilst you’re at a school, how do you involve everybody?

So just to introduce Learning through Landscapes a little bit. We’ve been around 30 years in the UK, and our vision is just to see that outdoor learning and play part and parcel of everyday life for every child, everyone that we work with. We know therefore there’s a connection with nature, there’s better learning, there’s happier, healthier children through both their formal learning time and as Mike I am sure will go into a lot more details with their play time particularly.

I just want to start with this quote because we find this really important in Learning through Landscapes. It’s very easy when you start thinking about outdoors to think what about our playground, what about the space we’ve got?

And actually what we find is it’s much, much more about the people and it’s about the attitudes and the understanding and confidence that people have. And I would just challenge anyone who is thinking, I would love to see more outdoor learning, better outdoor play in our school or our nursery, to think, actually, what about the people? The children actually are the relatively straightforward bit. They like being outside, they respond really well, it’s us adults, so just start thinking about adults, so that’s where I’m going to start.

Have you inspired people about the power of outdoor learning? We often talk in Learning through Landscapes about having a session that’s awe and wonder, really make people go oh wow, that’s what it’s about. We get into a school, we introduce what we’re talking about, we allow people to experience it for themselves. We will stand in a playground with the teachers, run around, do some of the activities we’re talking about. We also spend time just developing a vision and I pulled out the Scottish vision, fairly unapologetically. One that’s where I’m based and two, I think we’re doing some really interesting things. So across Scotland there’s a vision for outdoor learning. It sits within a bigger thing called learning for sustainability, which is all about the kind of sustainable goals and the UN, but actually these are the five main things we’ve got.

We want a healthier, smarter, safer, more sustainable society. Within that, that runs as a theme through everything that we do in learning in our schools. So as you set off have you inspired people with a personal experience? Have you laid out a bit of a vision with them, why do we want to do this thing? You often then run into a few folk going, oh hang on a minute, I am not so confident, I’m not so sure, what about the weather, what about if something goes wrong risk and challenge wise? What about I’m in the playground and every other teacher and pupil can look out the window and see me? What if a parent comes back and says oh I don’t think that was great? And I think if you’re looking to develop this, these are the typical barriers you need to think about and go what can I put in place to help these? So for example with weather, have we got some good clothing in place, can we lend it to pupils who can’t afford it? Have we got a really good policy that says, we’re okay with a bit of risk and challenge in our playground and actually we work with parents really closely to reassure them on that. So those common concerns, visit them with policies and attitudes that help.

This is my overused phrase with teachers all the time when it comes to outdoor learning. Do something different, we’re not asking to do more, what we’re saying is your maths lesson might move outsides and it takes a couple of extra minutes to grab a coat or put a warm hat on or something like that. But we’re asking for different, not more.

So a couple of tips to get you there. Start with something really easy and familiar. Every primary teacher is teaching some maths and your language, English, Chilean, whatever you’re doing. Start with the straightforward things you knew you were going to teach next week anyway and think, how could I teach that, is there a better way of teaching that and might it involve being outdoors or being active or being in groups? It certainly shouldn’t cost a lot. It could eventually if you are in a secondary school you might have some bigger trips off to the mountains and adventurous places, but actually, the day to day school grounds shouldn’t take much at all.

Just be aware that just because we’re taking our lead from the curriculum and studying our local history or some maths, doesn’t mean that children are not developing their self-awareness, their confidence, their ability to interact with others, their physical development while they walk around the streets doing our school work. And actually here’s a really good goal: outdoor learning is just a normal place to learn for all our educators, all our children, and as an educator the skill is choosing when you break out that really powerful learning opportunity.

Some examples just before I get too drawn into that. Going out for maths and saying to a class, how tall is that and how would you work it out, and allow the pupils to puzzle that one through.

Let’s go around the school on a bit of maths and symmetry. Actually let’s cost up how much it would be to plant our garden and maybe if we sold it, how much it would be worth? With your older pupils how do you measure the speed of a car or a train going by?

There’s some really simple maths that I guarantee will run through all the curriculums around the world about speed, distance, time, and how great to do it, stood at the end of the school grounds, peering over the fence at the cars passing by and work out that speed.

I find language a really interesting one. Whether you’re trying to involve children’s full senses and full body in an experience and an opportunity, or whether you’re just trying to do some practical writing, I do find that there’s real difference in language that comes out. We’re inspired by that first-hand experience, so things like becoming a bug and imagining what it’s like to move out on that tree. And maybe going outside and reading stories outdoors. Maybe going and doing a proper sort of newspaper reporter moment and reporting on a real issue that you face in your community. We encourage everybody to start where you are, the grounds within the school or the nursery that you’re working with are a prime resource, often under-funded, under-valued, often the last place to think is a learning opportunity. Funnily enough we don’t value them that way, we don’t tend to invest in them that way either.

There’s a lot of community and local spaces, places, the picture here I don’t know if you can see, is in Scotland. This is a housing estate in Scotland. They didn’t quite have room for some more houses, so the school was offered this really derelict piece of land and they immediately planted things. They immediately created some learning opportunity. They had seating and shelter in places we could gather a whole group, and it’s now somewhere that’s used really regularly that was a piece of wasteland. And we study things that are local and real, there’s authenticity in what we’re learning. We’re not learning about a rainforest on the far side of the planet, I will learn about my Scottish Caledonian pine forests. In your country you might actually be learning about the rainforests or the desert or whatever is there.

One of the things we’re really keen on is using an audit tool to start off. What have we got, who does what? It’s quite amazing in how many schools people forget what other folk are up to and we’ve got some free audit tools we’d encourage everybody to start off with and just start thinking in a certain way before we dive into too much detail.

I just want to finish with a little quote from David Attenborough who we are very fortunate to have our patron, and he asks this: how do we ensure that our school grounds and local green spaces have the biggest and richest outdoor learning experience possible?

And most important in that I find are the adult’s attitudes, not the spaces that you’ve got, and if we can take our colleagues and our parents with us on a journey, it’s amazing what you’ve got on your doorstep.

We’ll happily follow up this webinar, I’ll send links through to all the lesson plans I’ve talked about but I hope you’ve got just in those couple of minutes some ideas about how you take things forward I guess strategically, rather than thinking about, I could just nip out tomorrow and do it, it’s how do I plan this, how do I take everybody with me? And I’ll be around for the questions at the end as well.

Carley I think that’s me and back over to you.

Carley Sefton

That’s great Matt, thank you so much for that. As always it was so lovely to see the Scottish weather there in some great photos. I have to say at the moment it’s looking slightly nicer than England is at the moment. So obviously Matt has covered very much curriculum led, and now we’re going to be moving over to Michael Follet who is the founder of OPAL, Outdoor Learning and Play and he is going to talk us through playtime, teaching the unteachable curriculum. Welcome Michael.

Michael Follet

Thank you very much Carley. That’s really nice of you to invite me along to join. I’m just going to load up my PowerPoint and hopefully that will, right, is that all working, can you all see?

Carley Sefton


Michael Follet

All working well? Good. Hi everybody, my name is Michael Follet, I run OPAL which stands for Outdoor Play and Learning and we are the UK’s leading organisation that specialises in transforming the culture of play in primary schools. So we have a very simple mission and it’s that every primary school, hopefully in the UK and beyond, should have an amazing play time every day with no exceptions, and when I started out I thought that was quite ambitious but we’re getting there, we’re getting there, we’ve done a lot of children so far. I think we’ve reached over a quarter of a million.

We’ve now got projects in Canada and New Zealand and people are picking up on ideas further afield.

I want to set you a little challenge, it’s a spot the difference competition and this is where people keep great apes in Toronto in Canada, and I want you to think about what are the people who have set up that environment, what have they thought about in terms of the needs of those great apes? So clearly there’s access to nature, clearly there’s loose parts. Great apes are intelligent beings, so they need lots of stuff to manipulate, they need to exercise their upper body strength. They need places to hide because being in exposed spaces can cause anxiety. So the people looking after these great apes have really thought about what do the species need in order to be happy and well. So I’m going to show you a great ape enclosure in London now. There we are. This is a primary school that I’ve worked with in London, and I think what we have to question is, what have the adults in charge of these great apes done to think about what do they need in order to be happy and to be well and to develop?

Now it might look like a prison yard, I was just interested to look at what the regulations were for prisoner care. So the UK Government say that prisoners, if you supplement prisoners for children, it’s interesting. Prisoners should not have to choose between open air and other important activities. That’s not true for schools. Exercise areas should be big enough and attractive enough. Not true for schools. Waterproof coats should be available. Not true for schools. Prisoners/children understand that time in the open area is important. Not always true for schools. And outside exercise is only cancelled in extreme weather conditions, not true for schools. So we’re not really doing that well.

Where we’re going with childhood I think is interesting and not, a lot of the measures aren’t particularly good, especially in terms of children not having a balanced play offer and spending a lot of time in front of their screens.

And I think we have to think about what is a curriculum that is needed now? What sort of curriculum for childhood should we be talking about, not just in this country but every country. What is a curriculum that supports childhood because our children are under extreme conditions and in the UK they are under self-isolation orders. That means not going out to exercise beyond garden, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

So what this means is that the opportunity to play in schools is really important and we have to bring about change.

Now if we look at these ducks we could say, are they tops down or are they bottoms up?

How do we get change? Well at OPAL we’ve been doing both things.

So we’ve been working away at how to help loads and loads and loads of schools make really good quality play, but we’ve also been lobbying the Government, somewhat successfully in that we got the guidance for PE and sports funding changed to include active play, so that’s really good.

But we were saddened by the fact that the only reference to outdoor play in Government’s COVID guidance at school was if you were taking a musical instrument outside and playing it there, and that was listed as outdoor play, so we’ve got a way to go.

So our program is all about active happier play times for children and we’ve combined the skills of school improvement, strategic approach to school improvement, of knowledge of teaching and of play work.

It’s a complicated chart. What this really illustrates is we’ve taken a school improvement approach, a very strategic approach to achieve something really unstructured, which is free play for children. Time when we don’t impose our desires, our outcomes on children. So we have an audit process, we have a number of meetings. We have an awards scheme and all of that helps schools to transform their culture.

Changing the culture in a school is like turning around an oil tanker. It’s a long old slow process.

That’s why we always work with schools for at least 18 months, often two years and we’ve had ongoing relationships with some schools for 10 years.

An oil tanker is heavy and once you’ve got it going in the right direction it will tend to chug on, and that’s how we like our best schools to be, to be pointing in the right direction.

There are lots of different programs that work with schools around the outdoors, but I think in some ways we’re different to a lot of them, in that we’re not trying to get the children to fit in with the outcomes of our project. What we’re saying is what do children need from childhood and how can we answer their needs? So we’re not trying to make them fitter, we’re not trying to make them more intelligent. We’re not necessarily trying to socialize them. We’re trying to provide for their basic needs as a child, lots and lots of good quality play.

Play takes up 20% of school life in England and we always like to point that out to head teachers. What other part of school life that makes up 20% of a child’s school experience does not have a strategic planned approach? And senior leaders are often shocked by that figure.

We have a simple acronym to help us remember how to change play in schools and that’s PARK.

Policy, access, risk and knowledge. If you don’t have a policy about play it will be dictated by the three people that complain the most in your school, guaranteed the three parents that complain the most, the three supervisors that complain the most.

And then we get a risk avoidance reaction to managing play and that’s not what we want.

Access, a lot of English schools and UK schools are very lucky in terms of actually having good grounds but they are terrible at accessing them. I mean typically they access them for 8 to 12% of the school year and a lot of that is just not wanting children to be free or not knowing how to manage mud. That amounts to £750,000 spent on supervising poor play times and £80 billion of wasted assets, and the solutions are incredibly simple, a pair of welly boots and a coat.

And what we’re trying to build up the idea of climate resilience. Whatever your climate is your children should be resilient to it and learn to be in it all the time.

We really encourage the idea of risk is good and risk is positive and risk is fundamental to all learning, so schools must understand how to approach and manage risk.

And when children do that they build their self-regulation. What I like about that picture is you have to know the context and I don’t know if this will play but let’s just play the context.

So these boys had built up to surfing down the stairs through many hours of play.

The K is for knowledge. We think that play work is the profession that is ideally matched with schools, a gap really in knowing what on earth to do and how to manage play.

So we are thoroughly based in play work skills and knowledge, and that includes knowledge of these play types.

When you’ve got the culture to support play, only then can you approach the environment and we have a model of creating attractive spaces, of ways of moving between those spaces, of lots of loose material and rich material environments, and those are the four ingredients for a good landscape for play.

Playground cover we designed for Bickleigh Down C of E Primary School

When you combine those things with culture, amazing play will just flourish. All ages, all genders, all abilities, all kinds of joy and fun and the impact is universal.

So great play in schools has a fantastic impact on schools themselves. Great play makes a better school and you get all sorts of benefits, but you only get those benefits if you believe and follow the intrinsic value of play. This is a one way relationship. You can’t try to get the benefits through outcome-based approach, you have to value play and provide for it.

So we can’t dress up play in some form of outcome-based learning, and I won’t keep you hanging around any longer.

You can’t teach the unteachable curriculum, play is the only way to do it.

So we have grown rapidly. In 2011 we did, ooh, there’s my alarm, in 2011 we did 11 schools. Sorry I will just turn that off. In 2011 we did 11 schools.

Carley Sefton

Mike you’re fine, you’ve got a few more minutes if you need them, so please don’t rush, it’s really important we get these messages across, so I’m happy to give you a few more minutes on that.

Michael Follet

Oh lovely Carley, I have been conscious of the 10 minute deadline. Yes, so in 2011 I left the local authority, I set OPAL up as a not for profit enterprise. This year we were lucky to receive £250,000 from Sport England to take that up to reach 280 new schools a year.

We love working internationally, we’ve worked with quite a few international schools and supported projects like European projects to support the principles to reach as many schools as we can.

So if you want to know more, do look at the OPAL website. I’ve written a book with the foundation knowledge of what I’ve learned from doing play in 500 schools which is called Creating Excellence in Primary School Playtimes and we tweet, lots of our schools around the world tweet as well about what’s going on.

So good, thank you for your time, I’m sorry that’s rushed, I think it is being recorded so if you need to go back and hear it more times I’m sure you’ll be able to follow the link to do that.

Good, right.

Carley Sefton

Wonderful Michael, thank you so much. As always I love hearing you speak and again our passion about play is so important, it is one of the challenges I think we always find it’s so overlooked in some schools and it is just now more important than ever as we see children coming out of lockdown around the world, that we really prioritise how important it is for free play and being outdoors.

Like Michael said, this is going to be available afterwards, you will be able to find links to it on Facebook and I believe on Twitter we’ll have links and also on You Tube, so please don’t worry if there’s anything you want to re-watch it will be up, it normally takes us a few hours to get that sorted so I would look tomorrow.

Also just to remind you, please do ask us questions, this is an amazing font of knowledge in front of you and so do ask questions and if there’s a question you can see that you would like answered as well, press like on it and it boosts it up the list for us to know that that’s a priority question.

Okay so over to our third speaker now. I’m so delighted to be able to introduce Josefina Prieto from the Fundacion Ilumina and Josefina like I said in the beginning is our lead for Outdoor Classroom Day in Chile and is also the co-founder of the Fundacion Ilumina and I am so apologetic for my terrible pronunciation there Josefina but welcome and hello in Chile.

Josefina Prieto
Hi Carley, thank you so much. I will share my screen. Thank you so much, I was telling Carley, hold on, there it is. I was telling Carley that it’s such an honour to be here. I spent our Autumn, I mean our lockdown, learning from all the LtL webinars and now I can’t believe I am on the other side, so thank you so much Outdoor Classroom Day and LtL.

Well what I want to talk about is how to interweave education with nature.

Here I have a humble weaving.

I believe education is really, really, really important, but I mean with my experience, I have noticed how nature, like the green micro bits can help bring alive education, and that’s my aim in life.

Well who am I? I am an agricultural engineer. I have a masters degree from Sheffield University in Landscape Design. I’m married, I have five children, yes, I am a bit crazy, and yes I’m the co-creator of Naturalizar, one of the first Chilean programs on early childhood educational centres on outdoor learning.

We started in 2011 and I remember studying all these names of people that now I’m getting to know, so thank you so much because it’s a very collaborative, lots of people.

Well my teacher has always been nature since childhood and my aim in life is to make outdoor learning and play even more contagious than Coronavirus because I really want children to be bound to nature, wherever they live.

This 2020 which has been really challenging, I founded a consultancy. I still work at Fundacion Ilumina, I am then starting e-spiral as well because I want to lead Outdoor Classroom Day at Con Sur with the University of Edinburgh.

So my invitation is for every teacher over here to embrace nature. Maybe you are doing it already, but to embrace it even harder.

My five humble advices are these one:

First of all, invite. You know there are many people around who really wish to do something meaningful and maybe if you invite them they will be looking forward to help you in any way. Maybe some family, some colleagues, some mentors even or students, and the path is not easy but if you find yourself sometimes struggling, go to your mentors. I have had some, I mean many, all over my life and yes, they have been really helpful.

Go and create, I don’t know go back to your memories and create experiences, at home or at school. Share them with colleagues, with friends, with students.

Listen to their feedback and implement it together.

Invite people to implement it with you because at the beginning it’s a bit scary to teach outside by yourself.

You think children will run away but you will see they will not.

And then you can from the feedback and the implementation, you can improve it and then go back again on this ongoing cycle.

So I invite you to detect allies, to empower them and then collaborate.

My second advice is to observe.

Potential affordances. There are no limits. It’s not a matter of space, it’s not a matter of resources, it’s a matter of attitude as Matt said, and make the most of what you have.

Like let children show you how they use the school ground, what parts are their favourites, what challenges do they love?

Look for places to gather the whole class as well as small group work, or places for solitude for contemplation.

Make sure that you have some shelter from sun or rain, depending on where you are.

Playground tepee we designed for Hedgewood School

And make sure you offer spaces for play, for a mud kitchen or a mud laboratory.

For loose parts to have worms to bring back soil to life and places to grow food.

Make the school ground a meaningful place where children will have their memories rooted there.

Look for the incorporate favourite spots, plants and elements.

Create inviting atmospheres and make it participatory.

Share ideas and perspectives with the students and let them decide and implement with you.

You don’t have to get all these tasks on your shoulders, you already have many, many challenges, but invite people to join you in it.

Okay, so my third advice would be restore.

If we restore nature we invest time in outdoors, we will bond with nature and nature will restore us.

I mean I think all of us here, if you are here at Outdoor Classroom Day or LtLs webinar, I think you believe this, and practice it. Practice what we all preach.

Sow natives and plant different sorts of plants, as many species as you can, in order to enrich biodiversity at your school

Choose plants that attract wildlife or are edible or maybe are sensorial.

So there you have lots of affordances.

Invite everyone to invoke favourite memories with nature on childhood because that aspect kind of connects you and makes you realize how meaningful it is for children to have memories with nature, and maybe children nowadays, it’s not so obvious that they have that access.

Propose students to adopt one plant each, for example at the school yard and promote the bonding, you see?

Let them be conscious of what’s happening in the school yard. Maybe at the beginning there will be 10 plants, 10 species, and only a few butterflies but then with the coming years if you carry on planting and sowing, invite them to be witnesses of this process.

Nature will improve relationships, I have seen that for the past I don’t know 11 years.

Nature is a perfect excuse to connect oneself with a family, with peers, with community, even with earth, you see, so that, I don’t know it’s all harmony again if you embrace her.

I invite you to collect inspired by nature. I would like to show you two things.

If you go around, I invite you to go collecting I don’t know, this is corn seeds, pine cones, whatever, walnuts, pods, all these can be treasures and they are natural treasures, you know?
And on the other hand, go on collecting, I don’t know like, for example these kind of cylinders. You can make them in tiny pods or everything, I mean paper bags you transform them in seeds, in envelopes to hold seeds. Even stones, flowers, sticks, everything can help, you see so it’s not a matter of resources, it’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of opening your eyes and collecting everything around and let nature inspire you.

Bring nature everywhere, maybe inside the classes or inside your homes, you can have these natural treasures.

You can co-create meaningful collections with your students or the families. I will invite you to have journals yourself, and invite students to have journals where you could register questions, reflections, drawings, and please encourage deep observation and inquisitive minds.

Let’s go for curious naturalist and creative souls.

Let me show you something.

You know Charles Darwin, he came to Chile, many many years ago and he did have a journal, and thanks to his journal he was able to study later on when he went back to England, he was able to study evolution theory and everything, so do believe in journals.

My fifth and last advice, I’m not sure Carley how I’m doing with the time, could you tell me please?

Carley Sefton

You’re doing great with the time, there’s no rush, you’ve definitely got a few minutes left. This is such wonderful resources so please take your time to do it, you’re absolutely fine, another few minutes, not a problem.

Josefina Prieto
Thank you Carley, thank you.

Well my fifth advice is to enjoy outdoor learning and play, but not only children, yourself as an adult, as a teacher, as a mother, a father, please do enjoy outdoor learning and play.

Listen, stop and listen to nature’s songs and messages.

Every bird has a message for you, what is that bird telling you in this exact moment?

Smell, don’t rush, stop and smell. I mean go down and smell that violet or whatever plant is on your way.

Cherish nature’s sense.

Taste, I don’t know like we need to stop a bit, we have been rushing so far and the lockdown has told us like slow down, right?

So maybe if you have an apple, whatever, enjoy it’s taste, enjoy it, enjoy flowers and seeds, fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs and medicinal herbs, because this is all what we are preaching children to have healthy food and stuff but are we doing it, are we living it?

We need to ask that every now and then, each one to himself or herself.

In terms of sight, I invite you to take a look, a deep look, at the palette, nature’s infinite palette of colours and shapes.

I don’t know it’s non stop, I mean it’s infinite.

And touch, how about touching, even with your feet, moss, water, soil, gravel, whatever, go for natural textures, with your hands, with your feet, with your face.

And stop and ask yourself what moves, inspires and enlivens myself?

What kind of games, activities or experiences did I enjoy, I mean did I enjoy when I was young and do my students enjoy?

Do I know it, do I go for them or not?

And remind, I mean I need to remind myself, yes, it’s tough, we are in lockdown, we are at home, there has never been so much uncertainty around, but we need to remind to enjoy life if we want our children to enjoy it as well.

And challenge yourself and everyone to enter with nature, play and education, we all can.

Now in terms of actions, how could we move forward?

Humble advices embed in nature, I don’t know, get your hands, I wanted to show you this.

I don’t know, get your hands in the mud, get your hands in the soil, this is Jan White’s Making a Mud Kitchen. I love her, she’s one of my mentors.

But embed yourself in nature, then include students and their families. Then invite colleagues, motivate whole school program and then enter with nature the local community and join outdoor learning initiatives, as Outdoor Classroom Day, Learning through Landscapes and all.

So yes, believe we can, you can, we all can, and if we do it all together it will be possible.

Let’s go for it.

And there’s only two more slides.

Another mentor of mine, maybe my first one, or one of the first one is Pam Lewis. She lives in England. I had the chance to stay with her and her husband at Sticky Wicket their marvellous garden in Spring 1997.

In her book she has this, I observe, enjoy and allow myself to be guided by nature as I nudge things along rather than enforce.

She was talking about gardening but I think it’s the same for us as teachers.

We don’t need to push things but we need to nudge them, slowly, softly.

Well, and my last message, let’s sow seeds of hope amongst all this lockdown and Coronavirus and stuff, there is a silver lining behind. Let’s go and believe that we can change things.

Thank you very much.

Carley Sefton

Josefina, thank you so much, that is just wonderful and I think a lot of us are echoing that, one of the comments that has come through is we would like to see you as our prime minister, which I’m sure a lot of people around the world will support at the moment or maybe you could give our politicians some key facts about trying to yes, enjoy the importance of nature when they’re all under so much stress at the moment. So that was absolutely wonderful, thank you, thank you so much, and so much to think about and reflect on, especially as we are going through such challenging times globally, it’s just yes, it really resonates that importance of just the simple things and the apple and taking it all a bit more slowly, so thank you so much.

Okay so to our final speaker of the afternoon, I’m really delighted now to introduce you to Tati Lindenberg. Tati hello and welcome, are you ready? Tati is the VP Marketing at Unilever’s Dirt for Good campaign and I can say you know from a personal thank you for all the support you’ve shown the campaign over the years and it would be great to find out more about how you felt about it and why you’ve supported it.

Tati Lindenberg

Yes of course, so let me share my screen, hopefully it will work. I just want you guys to tell me if you can see it? Share, I hope so?

Carley Sefton

It’s just come in, yes, I can see that now, that’s perfect Tati thank you.

Tatty Lindenberg
Super, so well guys, thank you so very much for the opportunity. I am really happy to be here and to also learn a lot from what all of you have been sharing. So as it has been introduced, I’m the Marketing Vice President for Dirt for Good, which is actually a community of brands. So if you live in the UK, you’re talking about Persil. If you are in Chile or South Africa, the brand’s name is OMO, so we have like different names all over the world but pretty much it’s a combination or a federation as we say of brands under this umbrella, Dirt is Good or Dirt for Good.

And the reason we’ve been partnering and supporting Outdoor Classroom Day is that some of you who are particularly familiar with the brand would know that the entire Dirt is Good idea is based on this very fact that parents go through a big tension point as they have children, which is what we call the tension between protection and freedom, so how much to protect our children and how much freedom we give to them to experience the world, and we can see that in many different instances, from the very first time that you were allowing your child or your children to eat by themselves to can I allow my child to go to school alone, can he walk alone or can he climb the tree, so even though the Dirt for Good brands are all about laundry, because at the end we sell like a laundry detergent, we understood being a Unilever brand that we needed to root our brand idea in a deep purpose and for the last 25 years we actually started doing these campaigns in order to inspire parents and then eventually teachers, to allow kids to be free and to experience life, and there is no better way of doing this than the outdoors.

So we started looking at the outdoors, not only as a way or a place in which children could be free, but also as a metaphor of freedom. So that’s what we’ve been doing over the last 25 years, and more recently now and that’s why I’m so very pleased that we’ve been working with Outdoor Classroom Day, we started to evolve the brand a little bit because we understood that when actually kids are outdoors, it’s not only good for them, but it’s also good for the world, so that’s why we say that by being outdoors and by having outdoor play and unstructured play, this is good for the child, for all the reasons that I’m sure that many people more equipped here could explain, but it’s also good for society and good for the world. So in a way even everything we hear nowadays about climate change or the more recent I would say activism coming from Gen Z, with the likes of like Greta, we do know that as children stay outside they can be more free, they can help the world and they develop compassionate values which at the end will help them to develop themselves as better more grounded human beings. So that’s why the purpose of our brands collectively is to take action for the collective good, unleash human potential, making sure that children could get stuck in and get dirty to make a difference.

Of course we are at the same time removing the consequences of getting dirty by offering top performance products etc., but that’s not the point of my speech here, it’s just to say that we strongly believe and we’ve been doing this for decades now, on the fact that children must be free and they must enjoy the outdoors, which just by doing so, they can be more compassionate. And of course I have to say that lockdown took a huge toll on all of us here at Unilever and we were thinking a lot about how can we evolve or how can our purpose happen or come to life during the lockdown, for all the reasons that we’ve heard so far, and this is when we started developing a campaign called Home is Good, and this is all about the idea that while we cannot go outdoors, at least we can still develop the same compassionate values or find ways to bring nature in, or bring the outdoors inside your house.

At that very moment we developed a number of different tools with Outdoor Classroom Day and with other partners as well to make sure that we could provide parents who were home schooling with ideas on how they could bring the outdoor in, all taking to account that of course it was a burden on everyone but especially on the kids’ well-being.

So this is just to say that we firmly believe on the outdoors. We firmly believe on outdoor play and that’s why we have been doing this for a few years and we will keep doing so, now bringing this angle that when we do it, we help the children but we also help the environment.

I hope I did it in the five minutes that I had available.

Carley Sefton

Tati that was absolutely wonderful, thank you so much for that, and again thank you for your support for the campaign. Some of you may be aware of a very amazing advert that Unilever, the Dirt for Good campaign did around free the child where they spoke to prisoners in American high security prison about how important their outdoor time was for them and it isn’t regulated and I know that that’s had such an impact around the world and is something I regularly use to kind of support the work, so thank you for all that you’ve done.

Tatty Lindenberg

You’re welcome.

Carley Sefton

Okay, so if everybody who is on the panel can kind of come into shot that would be great. I can see everybody again. And we have some wonderful questions coming through. I am going to take some, I think Matt is going to lead on some as well because we have then coming through from lots of different channels so please excuse me if my eyes are all over the place as I look at iPads and phones and my laptop, seeing what people would like to talk about, but I’m going to kick off with something that feels very British, but I’m sure has different connotations around the world, so Josefina it will be very interesting to hear your view on this.

So the question is from Cheryl Brown and it is how do we keep momentum going when the weather turns wet and cold? In COVID-19 situations some schools are not allowing children to get changed into PE kit or allowing them to bring clothes, so they have to stay in their school clothes. So they can’t even bring in wellies. Now obviously Josefina when it comes to you I think we’ll be talking about how hot it gets and the challenges that brings, but I’m going to ask Cath to kick off because we had a conversation offline recently around the lack of clothing and keeping that momentum going, so maybe some tips from you Cath would be great to start that.

Cath Prisk

Thank you. I was speaking to a school just a couple of days ago who said, I’m thinking of trying to get rid of the PE kit that parents buy, and so they have to instead invest in outdoor all weather gear, because during the COVID times they’ve actually been encouraging either to wear PE kit all day, change over from smart trousers and blazers to having track suit bottoms and something that can get muddy, but having, I really think every primary school child everywhere in the world should have the appropriate clothes for the weather that they are in. In Australia we see these great cute photos of the kids with the big hats and they’ve got long sleeve shirts and they made sure that they’re protected from the sun, well equally here in the UK every child should have coming into Autumn, waterproof coat, waterproof trousers and wellies.

Covered MUGA we installed at Haileybury College

Michael I know that you …

Carley Sefton

… yes I was going to say, I was going to throw it to Michael next.

Michael Follet

We have a line that we use that we find is quite effective when we’re talking to adults and parents about clothing. And that is when you look, ask yourself the question, are you changing the nature of childhood to fit the clothing that you’re putting your children in? Shouldn’t the clothing be there to suit the needs of childhood? And if we are altering the very nature of childhood around the clothing that we’re putting our children into, that’s a pretty good indication that we’ve gone badly wrong. I would love to put out a challenge, maybe it’s a worldwide challenge, who could design a school uniform for the needs of children? Let’s put that one out there, who could come up with a school uniform that actually met the needs of children, not, I mean in the UK we have some very bizarre tradition that actually comes down from State schools wanting to imitate private schools which we’re trying to imitate the old fashioned universities, and that’s where our model of dress comes from, and what we do is, we dress them up as little business people, which is a very strange way of dressing. So let’s throw that challenge out, who can design or maybe even sponsor the design of, you know maybe we could get Stella McCartney along or something to design a school uniform that truly met the needs of children.

Carley Sefton

Thank you Michael. I have to say on that I have a friend who is Finnish and the first time she was ever cold in her life was when she came to boarding school in England at the age of 13, she had never been cold before and wearing a small kilt in Norfolk in December was a great shock to her.

Josefina could you just talk to us a bit about how weather affects play and learning in Chile because obviously your climate is very different to the one that we have here?

Josefina Prieto
Yes that’s a good question. No what I would like to ask, I mean we should ask ourselves is say who is cold or who is hot? Are we adults or children are, because when you go outside, children having so much fun running all over the place and they are not cold, but we are like let’s go inside and stuff, you see, so is it okay for us to limit their outdoor experiences after listening to all these people, is it okay, because I am a bit cold, am I wearing the right clothes, are they wearing the right clothes? In Chile well we do have struggles with it, even our weather is okay, it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. We do have struggles but we keep on telling people and teachers, if your child comes back really, I don’t know really posh and clean, I don’t know if they learned, I don’t know if they had experiences because it makes me thing, I don’t know once I remember a school when I came back after the Summer and it was all with these, how do you say, it looks like lawn but it’s not, you know it’s so plastic, and I said, right, I will not send an apron never again because it will never get dirty. So yes, we shouldn’t limit them, really we should think how to, I don’t know, how to do what Michael says, you know like look for the right clothes and go outside.

Carley Sefton

Great, thank you, Matt, can I just ask you maybe to give a couple of tips. Obviously Scotland is known for it’s quite dramatic weather at times. Just a couple of really practical things about, we’ve all been there when you’re outside and I think Josefina’s point around adults being colder than children is very relevant, but back to that momentum, just a couple of quick tips on how do we, in the middle of your lesson when it starts chucking it down or blowing a hooley I think you call it, do we keep the momentum going?

Matt Robinson
Well one first view is, actually weather is a learning opportunity, and why aren’t we looking at those wet days, those windy days, and breaking out the kites and the physics? Why aren’t we looking at those icy days and going wonderful, that’s all about friction. Why aren’t we looking at that beautiful sunny view and going let’s draw the view one day? So I think one thing to say is flip weather on its head and see it as a learning opportunity, it’s a different, changing environment and we’d pay a lot to have a different changing environment in a lot of places. And I think my second one with children is  as well as thinking about clothing is just thinking about how and where they kind of store those. Learning to put your own wellies on, dress yourself, zip yourself in, tie your own laces, is a slow process and I’m sure some people will be frustrated by it, but it’s a deeply important part of independence, physical literacy, children being able to do things for themselves. Do think as you start finding clothing, where am I going to store it, how am I going to encourage children? I was really taken aback, we did just some nurseries in Estonia and they had wonderful ways of teaching children to get dressed, and we’ve got a little video hidden somewhere in our site about children sort of having different ways of lie down and put your arms in, put your hood on while it’s hung up, just things like that. Lots of the walls decorated with zips and shoelaces for children. So yes, see it as a learning opportunity rather than an issue. And the last one is if you can’t afford clothing, is start a donation bank. It’s amazing how quickly if you say to parents, I want your old wellies, I want your old waterproofs, we have children who need them, you can end up with a school full of waterproofs, individual children have their own stuff, obviously at the moments needed. So start collecting, begging and borrowing second hand clothing.

Carley Sefton

Thank you so much Matt. Amy Brand has asked something I’m going to very quickly answer, in what weather, this is to finish the weather conversation, in what weather conditions should an outdoor lesson be cancelled or moved indoors? When it’s dangerous is the bottom line. Anything else is totally acceptable. Amazing chain of nurseries that we work in Scotland called Stramesh, I have been there when it is snowing, I can see oil rigs, I mean we are that far North, and the children are still playing outside, nappy changing happens in a yurt and they sleep in beautiful cocoon hammocks while they’re out there, so the only time it has to be brought inside is when it’s dangerous. So in high winds or in temperatures that would be dangerous, obviously a risk of hypothermia, anything else, if you’ve got the clothing then get outside.

Colourful roof shelter we fitted at Sherrier C of E Primary School

Okay I’m going to just target some questions to get through some of these directly at some of our panelists here and this one I’m just very quickly going to, I think to Cath and Matt to begin with, which is, how do we address challenges around course teaching staff only being allowed on site as children have to stay in their bubbles?

Now I’m going to just explain very briefly before I hand over to Cath, regarding the bubble system. So across the UK at the moment, for COVID safety children are educated in a bubble. Now bubbles vary in size but it basically means a teacher and those children stay together all day and they can’t go out of that bubble and they can’t mix in other bubbles. So I think the question is, how do teachers cope with that when sometimes, where before we would have volunteers and teaching assistants and parents in school, that isn’t possible at the moment, Cath?

Cath Prisk

First of all if you’re talking to the other schools …

Carley Sefton

… sorry Cath, can I just ask you to come a bit closer to your mic, you’re a little bit quiet.

Cath Prisk

Just going to. I’ve got very bright sunshine.

Carley Sefton

That’s perfect.

Cath Prisk

Can you hear me now?

Carley Sefton


Cath Prisk

First of all is talking to other schools in your network and your local authority because most schools, I mean I’m certainly working with several schools at the moment and there’s not problem about external people coming in. It may be a localised issue for specific local authorities for having additional staff in the group.

The second thing is as you get more confident is it can be a lot easier to take a whole group outdoors because once you get the right number of resources out there, especially if you can be in a natural area, children will be learning just through playing with the natural resources or the loose parts or other activities so you can concentrate teaching on specific groups.

Carley Sefton

Yes, I think that’s a really good key thing to say, Matt, have you got anything to add to that?

Matt Robinson
Yes, I think for me, there’s quite an interesting culture here that often means outdoor learning seeing smaller groups and actually I think there’s a real challenge now and now is the opportunity that’s really pressing, it’s cast set to look at whole school groups, particularly in school grounds. As you get more confident you can run a whole class at a time. That’s very intimidating at the start but it is possible. So I think it’s time to start looking at that and if I dare stray up with some of the questions which were about how we take colleagues with us, we have an expectation in Scotland, this is written into our national teaching standards for all teaching, all teachers, the outdoor learning is the responsibility of all. It is not that one person comes in, and if you’ve got that one person who comes in and says hey, I’ve got a particular badge or a particular qualification that says I’m the outdoor learner, you’ve got a problem because they’re ill and it doesn’t happen, or you can’t mix bubbles, it doesn’t happen, but the knowledge and the skill stays with them and I think there’s a real challenge for schools to start saying, we expect every teacher as part of good teaching and learning to deploy outdoor learning and use it. That does start solving some of our problems. At the moment with volunteers it is a real challenge for us particularly. I am seeing real variance between different schools and local authorities. Some are welcoming us in and saying you’re outdoors, we know the risk is so much smaller outdoors, therefore we’re comfortable with that, and things like our staff at the moment are making a point of not going in the building at all. They just get outside with the children, and there are some others who are much more nervous and aren’t aware that outdoors is so much safer than indoors. So I think that’s my big one at the moment. If you can get volunteers, view outdoors as a very different space and place from indoors.

Carley Sefton
Great, thank you Matt. Okay we’ve had a number of questions about funding and I’m not going to read one of them out in particular but basically I think there’s a lot of challenges around getting equipment, concerns around how you fund outdoor learning programs in school and play programs. So Michael I’m going to start with you, you can just tell us a bit about how people can engage, Matt you can talk about LSNG if you would like and then Tati, could you just with your marketing head on, maybe tell us of ways that maybe interesting ways schools could possibly engage, not with Unilever but just with generally from marketing how they could promote the work they’re doing to maybe capture local businesses or something to support them. Thank you so Michael.

Michael Follet

Okay, so in the UK every school, certainly in England, gets the sports and PE premium and now the second top priority for schools to spend that premium is on active outdoor play. So that’s a very simple one, it’s use your sports and PE premium. Elsewhere I think the key thing for us is the idea of who is in charge. So I would say to any school, have leadership around play, both strategically and operationally. You know who is in charge of resources, who is in charge of the plan, because if it’s everybody’s job it’s actually nobody’s job. So the other thing about play is we use junk loose parts and we use natural loose parts, predominantly, we don’t really see much value in large capital cost fixed play equipment. As teacher Tom said in another thing, because that already has a script written for it and we want children to write the script.

So use free stuff, use stuff you can scrounge, use stuff you can get off your parents. If you buy a builder’s bag of sea pebbles, it’s about £180, you get about 3,000 play items in it. Each sea pebble is a play item, so just think of things differently. Think of low cost, high value stuff, rather than high cost high value stuff.

Carley Sefton
Great, thank you, Tati, over to you, some ideas of how schools might be able to market themselves.

Tati Lindenberg
Yes so I would say that there are two important things and this is true for Unilever and I worked in other companies before and it was the same thing. I believe the first point is to look for like-minded companies, even if it’s a small corporation or a large one like Unilever, I am sure that if Cath would have approached Axe like the deodorant brand, it would have probably not have worked, even though it comes from Unilever, because there is no shared values. I’m taking Axe but I will take another big brand, taking into account people from different countries, so Dove is a skin cleansing brand, skin care brand, I am sure that a lot of you would know, Dove has a beautiful purpose about self-esteem, but self-esteem has nothing to do with outdoor play or education in general, so even though, well it has, but not the way Dove does, you know what I mean guys, it has, I thought about it before, but I think the first point is you need to look for like-minded companies or brands that they share the same values as you and they want to achieve the same impact.

And the second big point is the precise word that I just used, which is impact. It’s really important to show companies what do they get out of that and what impact they will bring to society? It’s true to every I would say company nowadays, that purpose is really important, so you can see more and more companies and brands speaking about how we can engage with society. So the opportunity is now and I think especially with lockdowns, it has never been more real that the companies want to bring something to society, for all the reasons that we know, but I would say then look for like-minded shared values and make sure that you show and explain the impact that that partnership would have to the brand and to society.

Carley Sefton
Thank you, Cath you had your hand up there?

Cath Prisk

Just a specific example of exactly what Tati is saying. So I’ve got the great pleasure of also working on another LtL project called My School, My Planet, working with a school in Hammersmith. We want to plant lots of plants. We also needed new raincoats because half the kids don’t have raincoats, this is a very small budget. So I rang up the local garden centre, explained what we’re doing, it’s that time of year when there are plants that are a bit sad. I said have you got any sad plants? We’ve got an offer of enough plants for the whole class to plant something and several trees that they’re going to give us, because we can put it on our social media, we can share that how great this particular edible garden centre in Faversham, and that means that I can spend my small budget on some raincoats. We need something to plant them in. So I ring up the local Quick Fit, the tire company. They pay people to get rid of tires. They offered me 30 tires immediately and said if you want more, ring me up next week. So it’s find the local people, I mean the local to your school is really good, but also you know, somebody you’ve got a relationship with, and go to them and don’t ask, don’t get, but also right now there’s a lot of post-COVID little pots of money, like 5,000 here, 5,000 there. They’re quite often very simple to fill in application forms. If the school can’t apply for it directly, look for a local play association, the local like, in London we’ve got the London National Park City schools network, we can apply on behalf of schools. There are other organisations that can apply on your behalf in your local area. You partner up with charities. There’s lots of advice and support out there. London has LEAF and lots of other things. Sorry I’m part of the London National Park City as you can tell from the map behind me, but local, it’s looking for the local pots of money that meet this post-COVID need for children to be outdoors. And then finding the local corporates, the local businesses who can help you.

Carley Sefton
That’s brilliant, Cath thank you so much, I saw a few people from Southampton earlier, if you live by a docks you can get pallets, and I’ll just tell you a little tip, go for the pallets from Canada because they’re better wood than the others, as I have learned through the years. So again, also look at big organisations, the RHS. Ask Learning through Landscapes, we give money into schools in England, Wales and Scotland through local schools nature grants, so there’s a lot of big, or little, but a lot of organisations have specific grants or lots of resources that they can share with you, so please do engage.

Okay, next question I’ve merged together Vicky, Gillian and Lydia’s question and it’s one that I feel the pain of anybody who is leading an outdoor learning program in schools, how do I bring the staff along with me? Josefina I’m going to start with you and then Michael I know play can be particularly challenging with some staff, so I’m going to ask you to follow up after Josefina.

Josefina Prieto
I wanted to say something in the question before on these bubbles, how do you do it? I don’t know, if you think of the naughtiest student of your bubble, maybe if you ask him or her to be your helper, they will feel like oh, because in the first time in their lives, someone looked at them and asked to be the helper, and they go like, I’m the helper, you see, so that would be my advice in that sense.

And yes, to bring along the staff, you know when you have like meetings, like staff meetings, I would invite them for example to close your eyes, to connect with their deep memories of childhood with nature, what did they do? They would start, even the most serious, start laughing because I don’t know, it happened to me the other day, she reminded taking some boxes and getting inside the box, down the hill, and she started laughing and she’s a really serious person you see, so help them to connect, not only with their head but with their heart.

And the other thing is like or another meeting, technical meeting, invite them to sow seeds, to prepare seedlings you see, like to get dirty, even to have a mud kitchen experience and to have a spa, a mud spa, make them laugh, like you see, you need to do this with them, and they will go for it, because they will enjoy it and they will see the value in it.

Carley Sefton
Michael and then over to Matt quickly on this one that would be great.

Michael Follet

So could you just repeat the question?

Carley Sefton
How do you bring staff along with you? There’s often a time in schools where there’s one person leading the charge for outdoor learning or really creative play and I have to say I’ve been that person myself, you are met with some resistance, how, what are some tips you can give to kind of bringing along the team with you and your colleagues?

Michael Follet

It’s slightly sort of carrot and stick I think. Some people are what we call tide watchers, so they will see where the majority of thinking is going in the school and I think if you can get the senior leadership behind things, that’s huge.

In OPAL we have a thing called play assemblies and we regularly have assemblies where children talk about their play, and I think for lots of people when they realise just how important either being outdoors or playing is to children, that actually touches, as Josefina was saying, it touches an emotional chord with them that maybe the rational argument doesn’t always hit.

And the other one is just the hard business case, that children learn better outdoors. Children are happier when they are playing and outdoors and that will actually help a school meet whatever its targets are, healthier, happier children with higher well-being, will perform better than unhappy miserable children.

Carley Sefton
Matt, do you want to add something to that?

Matt Robinson
Yes I would echo exactly the same, there’s a huge deal of leadership in our experience, good leadership, some policy, some positive support for teachers to say you know what, outdoors is a valid place to be and if something goes a little awry I’m supported in learning and moving on from that. I would also echo Michael’s comment about I often find when I’m working with teachers and we kind of lift the lid on the power of outdoor learning in a really cool experience for them, they suddenly realise why they got into teaching in the first place, and it’s amazing how many have felt a little kind of worn down and teaching is quite mundane and in the classroom and it’s all that data and it’s all that, this, that and the other, and you lift the lid to outdoor learning and play and there’s this moment of, that’s why I got into teaching, and again it teaches something, it touches something really deep in teachers.

Yes, so I think that’s my last one and I also am reasonable believer in the stick as well. To give you an example, we do have a local authority, I’ve got two local authorities in Scotland who have a policy that says, in early years, you should be outdoors every single day. In primary school, that should be two to three times a week and in secondary school that should be once a week, and that is a non-negotiable, you will be expected on it when they inspect our schools. You will be marked on it, you have to do it. It’s quite a bold, powerful stick at one to say you have to, and if you don’t like it, other schools and local authorities are available, thank you very much.

What I would say is, the schools that are bold enough to do that, report back to us that they managed to recruit more inspiring, more passionate, better staff, and the number of head teachers who come back to us and say outdoor learning is one of my key recruitment tools, is really interesting. So once you get through the challenges, it’s worth doing.

Carley Sefton
Great, and very quickly, I’m just going to, so Matt I’m going to throw over to you some questions in a second, and I think just a couple of points I would like to follow up with is it is so important to sign up to Outdoor Classroom Day, and I’m not just saying that as an NGO, but we do a lot of behind the scenes work with government. So Outdoor Classroom Day has been discussed in the House of Lords, in the UK, in Holyrood, which is the Scottish Government and we can do that because we can throw huge figures at them about the amount of children that are engaged. So to get those big changes in government we do ask, we know it seems tedious when we keep asking people to sign up and spread the word, but it gives us a voice, so when we can  get questions raised there’s big numbers that go behind it and that’s what politicians want to engage in, so any campaign, you know you see promoting this, please do support it because it really does help our cause.

Slightly on that question, about teachers, and another one that I feel very passionate about, parents.

How do we get parents not to think that outdoor learning and play is kids not learning? And I know personally I have been challenged with this quite a lot of times, when it’s, they’re just out doing nothing. Somewhere in our evolution we have lost the importance of children learning, Sir David if you look at any of him talking about, Sir David Attenborough talking about his childhood, he was such an inquisitive thinker because his parents made him go and find out things for himself, and certainly it’s fine for Sir David to be a global icon but God forbid we let children explore on their own without a set curriculum. So Michael, a little bit on play and then Josefina, Cath and Matt, and obviously Tati feel free, pop your hand up and we will follow up on that because I think this is such an important thing for teachers to be able to really, you know not just have the Sir David stick but some key tips.

Michael Follet

Well we used to run sessions in the evening for each OPAL school about play and we would typically get three to seven parents who already were engaged with play, come along and support us. And then we switched to having play days, where we would invite parents to take the afternoon off work, bring along a loose part and come and play with your child, and we went from an average of three to about an average of 70 parents, and we would sneak in, we would always sneak in about a half hour talk, before they got to go and play with their children, about the thinking behind the program, why it’s so good for their children, why it’s so important for their learning, for their happiness, and we’d give them some pointers when they’re out there, to say when you’re there, just see how many questions your child asks, or see how many ideas that they come up for themselves. So I think nothing beats opening up and getting parents to come and explore and learn and play with their children and to have teachers and professionals on hand to then interpret so that they can read what they’re seeing in a different but very, very practical way.

Carley Sefton
Thank you, anyone else just want to say anything on that?

Cath Prisk

I know that with another hat on I work with a lot of families to encourage them to think about, so a lot of families in London, so 24% of London’s kids get to a green space less than once a month and we’ve been trying to shift that thinking from going to the park is a special thing to do, a treat to do if they’ve been good, because actually if you go to the park every day they’re never bad, and that’s what we’re hearing from parents, is they try to make sure they go to a green space every single day. So the third goal of Outdoor Classroom Day. Outdoor Classroom Day has three core goals: increase outdoor learning, we’ve been talking a lot about that, increase outdoor play, yes, but also for schools to seriously advocate to parents why the outdoors is so important. There are so many books on this, there’s so much research on this. What do you want for your child? We want our children to be happy, healthy people who can form relationships, be great parents, can hold down a job, can be resilient, can go with the punches. We don’t know what jobs are going to be like in 30 years time. When I was at primary school we didn’t know these things were ever going to exist. There are many, many jobs now that just simply didn’t exist 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago. On the whole parents aren’t as obsessed, the majority, the silent majority who don’t say I want transformation, they’re not obsessed with their child just getting the A-level results at the end of an 18 year schooling period, they really want healthy, happy, engaged kids who are building the life skills, the unteachable curriculum that Michael talked about earlier. So it’s about building that social proof, having enough parents on board, who can tell the other parents how important it is. So sharing not just the successes the school is having, it’s that sharing the successes in more outdoors time. You know we learned about perimeter in our playground today. Today we did observational drawings, and they just happened to be outside. The outdoors is not a curricular area, it’s just a space within which to learn. I mean it’s something I feel really passionate about. Most parents want the children to be outdoors, want children to have the time and opportunity to be healthy and happy.

They just don’t have their voices heard and the pressure on children is so much more now because most both parents need to go to work, there’s more after school clubs and all the rest, so they particularly support schools having more play time, having more outdoor learning. I do remember in the early days of the academy there was a consultation with parents across West London about the academies and the number one thing that they wanted was more play time outdoors.

Shade sail we designed for Glenwood School

Carley Sefton
Thanks Cath, Josefina I’m going to come back to you in a second, Matt I know there’s a couple of questions that are very relevant, I think everyone can ask you, especially around COVID and online learning and having to teach digitally at the moment, so could you just ask those and ask the panel to engage. We’ve got about three minutes left, sorry guys.

Matt Robinson
Yes the questions are exactly that. As we’ve been working online, e-learning, home learning, things like that, how do we make use of outdoor learning and we can build on some stuff. To give you two examples that we’ve done and then I’ll hand it over to everybody else.

We have a year of outdoor home work for primary schools, so you can set your maths homework to involve walking home and counting cars, or spotting leaves or drawing trees or whatever you’ve got, but also through lockdown we created 16 weeks worth of home activities, and again, as Cath said, parents jumped on it, we have thousands in the parent group who went, that is lovely and we love the support you gave us for it. So get practical and think about that home school link and encouraging parents out. Over to everybody else.

Carley Sefton
Josefina, how has it gone in Chile with lockdown and learning?

Josefina Prieto
Difficult question again, Carley you like it. Terrible, I don’t know, well we finished classes last December and we’re not sure. I hope this October/November, some schools are going back but not all of them, probably next March, so yes, it’s a bit tough. May I go back, I’m always late, but to the last question, my advice would be after workshops, as Michael said, where parents could play with their children and enjoy playing, we need, as adults we need to remember how to play and enjoy, but I would video tape children at a normal class, before going outdoor, during outdoor, and then after outdoors. I have looked at in universities for example and the attitude of children towards learning it’s another, so I would do that, and show the parents and say right, what do you think they are learning and have a talk about it.

Yes and the other thing is we model outdoors, so enjoy it yourself, if you enjoy it they will join, if you learn, they will learn, so that’s it.

Carley Sefton

Thank you, okay guys we’re getting short on time, I’m just going to add to that, there are so many resources out there now for outdoor learning and play and I would really recommend just Googling and looking at all the big ones, following Facebook groups like this, it is really, a lot of children do not have access to the outdoors, especially in big cities and therefore things like growing, trash growing, growing the bottom of the celery once you’ve used it or the spring onions, that just green connection to nature, looking out your window, put drawing leaves, putting them on your window, making it feel green, finding fun things to do, making dens, structuring engineering, it’s all great and it can be done with very little resources, but there’s lots of information out there. Michael very quickly?

Michael Follet

Yes just a brief plug Carley, we ran a conference called COVID-19 and outdoor play in schools recently with a microbiologist and a specialist in infection control. A really huge response from schools to the advice that came out of that. So we will be putting on another of those in November and we’ll be opening that up to non-OPAL schools.

Carley Sefton

Right, and we will share that through our network here, so everyone today can find out about that. Right, I’m going to give you all 10 to 15 seconds just to wrap up why outdoor learning and play is important and I’m going to go, Cath, Michael, Matt, Josefina and Tati.

Cath Prisk

Thank you Carley. Oh, so many ideas, why is outdoor learning and play important?

Carley Sefton

One quote.

Cath Prisk

I want to see outdoor play as critically important in every child’s life as reading to your child at night, and sign up to our depression letter.

Carley Sefton


Michael Follet

I think because all of the skills that we want children to develop, all of the ideas of well-being and happiness, can only come when you meet the needs of a child and you cannot meet the needs of a child without play.

Carley Sefton


Josefina Prieto

Because of bonding and hope and yes we need to have the feeling that we belong somewhere and if we have played with mud, then you have that feeling with you for the rest of your life.

Carley Sefton


Matt Robinson

Because we have happier, healthier, cleverer, better children with stronger relationships and by choosing not to use outdoor learning and play you’re saying I don’t want some of that. Well I do.

Carley Sefton


Tati Lindenberg

The same reason, happier, healthier children and actually happy, healthier society in general, so I think we should not forget the impact that by having kids outdoor we also have a massive impact on society.

Carley Sefton

Brilliant, thank you. Well look, thank you so much to the panel once again to Matt, Michael, Josefina, Tati and Cath. Thank you so much for your time. Just to wrap up very quickly to say there’s been lots of questions around COVID, around safety, each country has its own guidelines. Ltl, Matt has done a bit of a lit review on that globally and brought together some resources. Michael has resources, so please do look it is out there and you can always email us any of our organisations and we will respond to support you, Josefina has done the same in Chile and also to say you know, David Attenborough is our patron and he always says and on the Ltl video he did for us, if children don’t care about their environment they won’t protect it and if they don’t protect it who will? So if anyone questions why you’re doing this, just throw Sir David’s video at them and get them to challenge that. Have a wonderful evening everybody and thank you so much for your time.