Learning outdoors: the big impact!
We quiz schools’ liaison officer Joe Cossey and field studies senior tutor Rich Birkinshaw on Hampshire Outdoor Centres and the importance of outdoor learning.
Why do Hampshire Outdoor Centres stand out compared to those that might provide a similar offering?
Joe: “We take an enormous amount of pride in our commitment to providing high-quality outdoor learning opportunities for young people. We deliver activities that are not just fun – which they most definitely are – but also provide students with real opportunities to develop themselves through a range of adventurous outdoor programmes.”
Rich: “All our centres have outstanding facilities. At Calshot Activities Centre we have an indoor cycling velodrome which secondary school pupils can use – a once in a lifetime opportunity for some. Alongside our excellent facilities, we have fantastic instructors who deliver safe, engaging, and enjoyable sessions. They take the time to create those ‘breakthrough’ moments for students – really focusing on the positive learning that takes place.”
Tell us about Hampshire Outdoor Centres…
Joe: “We have three centres in Hampshire and one in south Wales. Within Hampshire, there’s Tile Barn Outdoor Centre, located in the New Forest National Park; Calshot Activities Centre on the edge of the Solent; and Runway’s End, nestled in a woodland setting in north Hampshire. Argoed Lwyd Outdoor Education Centre is situated in the beautiful Brecon Beacons and boasts spectacular mountain views.
“Each centre offers day and residential visits with capacity for groups of all sizes. We deliver a range of adventurous outdoor learning programmes, carefully designed to meet your aims and objectives.
“Our transitional programmes, delivered early in the academic year, are very popular with secondary schools looking to engage their students from the get-go. Recent research has shown that visiting earlier in the year helps set students up for academic success by improving their resilience and determination.
“Plus, stronger relationships between students and also between students and teachers are formed. From October until March we offer low season discounts. This means that schools can reap the benefits of the transitional programmes at a reduced rate.”
Your approach to teaching children is quite unique; tell us a bit about it.
Rich: “We work in a way which encourages students to set their own personal goals. Our guiding principle is one of ‘challenge by choice’. In our activity sessions, students set their own individual targets based on how they feel about that particular challenge. Avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach means that students can achieve success on a personal level.”
Do you offer any curriculum-linked activities or experiences?
Joe: “All our centres can be used by groups studying GCSE PE, offering unique sporting choices such as climbing, skiing and velodrome track cycling, and even overnight canoeing expeditions. This allows students to develop their personal skills while fulfilling the requirements of their PE curriculum. The centres also offer Field Studies for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 in Geography and Biology.”
Why should teachers consider booking a trip to one of your centres?
Joe: “We’ve been doing this for over 50 years and know what it takes to make a good residential a great one. The combination of our exceptional facilities, professional staff and commitment to delivering high quality outdoor learning means that your students will not only have the time of their lives – but will leave walking a little taller and ready to take on life’s challenges.”
What effects have you seen from learning outside the classroom?
Rich: “It’s brilliant to see pupils enjoying themselves while knowing there’s good concrete development happening. I worked with an A-level group recently from an inner-city school. On arrival they were clearly out of their comfort zones, but after just one day they showed more confidence in their surroundings. Studying in a real-life setting allowed them to put their classroom learning into context; they were using the correct terminology, engaging with the environment and each other and interacting more confidently with me.”
Joe: “Learning outside the classroom is much more than just taking part in the activities; it’s about the students’ personal growth and development. They show much more resilience, independence and confidence which is extremely rewarding for us to observe. Learning outside the classroom is so vital to the educational development of every child and we believe that everyone should have outdoor access throughout their learning process.”
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