Community support

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


POLEN works in partnership with Plymouth Schools to enable more children to access learning outside the classroom. Critically supporting schools to improve facilities on school grounds and staff to access training and develop stronger links with providers of outside learning in the city.

The project developed in response to research into the fundamental challenges to learning outside the classroom in the natural environment (LINE) within schools. Evidence identified a lack of teacher confidence in teaching outside and fragmentation of LINE service provision. Consequently the following goals are the focus of the work to date:
• Stimulate the demand from schools and teachers for learning outside the classroom in the local natural environment.
• Support schools and teachers to build learning outside the classroom in the local natural environment into their planning and practices.
• Stimulate the supply of high quality learning outside the classroom in the natural environment services for schools and teachers.

In July 2017 Natural Connections phase two successfully completed its second year working with a network of schools that each have an enthusiasm to consolidate, share and develop their outdoor learning.

Phase three: Developing a robust sustainable Plymouth wide network of outdoor learning providers and educators
Evaluation of feedback from all stakeholders has identified a number of key actions over the following year:
• Every school is different and so we will start the year with a full staff team meeting. This will also allow an action plan to be jointly developed in which everyone has a stake. In this way responsibility areas can be shared out between staff.
• Discuss the possibility of identifying the teachers who don’t go outdoors and working with them to overcome barriers.
• Better promote outdoor learning CPD opportunities to all schools.
• Continue to support lead staff to accrue the resources they need for outdoor learning through sharing new learning resources and information regarding access to funding to buy resources.
• Support new teachers to access the outdoors and build their own confidence in taking a class outside.
• Strengthen links between providers and schools to make the most of outdoor learning opportunities in Plymouth.
• Establish more comprehensive evaluation looking at outcomes in terms of the medium and long term impacts of the work and correspondingly the actions that result from intervention.

Critically we would like to see the network develop stronger relations between schools and outdoor learning providers. Key organisations such as Plymouth City Council’s Poole Farm, The Marine Biological Association, RSPB, Devon Wildlife Trust and National Marine Aquarium all have excellent staff and facilities to work with education establishments and offer outdoor learning however they are limited by capacity and frequently work repeatedly with the same select few schools.

We currently have eleven schools that are keen to contribute £350 towards the POLEN network subscription of £500. We hope to recruit a further five schools contributing £250, therefore with a further grant of £2900 sixteen schools could access the POLEN network.

In order to initiate relations between outdoor learning providers and education establishments we intend to have a dragons den style event where each provider is given 5 mins to sell an outdoor learning session. The schools are then given monopoly money and invited to spend this money with the providers of their choice, getting as much for their money as possible. Each school will be given £400 total to spend. The event will be part of a wider outdoor learning conference planned for spring 2018.

It is envisaged that through introducing schools and providers that children will be able to access more diverse outdoor learning. There will also then be links for future partnerships as and when funding permits.

Project Video

Earthjump CIC

Moment of Pride

Over the last academic year POLEN has given over 3000 children the opportunity to learn in the natural environment. As one head teacher said “many students thrive in an outdoor learning environment". We frequently witness renewed enthusiasm for learning subjects previously considered boring.

Location: Plymouth