It’s normal for the Team at the Outdoor Learning Service to be asked to develop a bespoke programme to suit a specific student group to help address their needs. Such a request was made by Beeslack Community High School three years ago. A progressive programme of outdoor learning was required that would be student centred and challenge Zone groups from S1, S2 and S3.
The programme put in place was local and cost effective. In S1 the students complete day based activities; Beach walk, Bush craft skills, Canoeing. As the students progressed to S2 the programme was more challenging; a campcraft training day and a self lead expedition in the Pentland Hills (an amazing achievement considering some students had never slept in a tent before). In S3 the programme culminated in a week long multi-activity programme including; Canoeing, Biking and Coasteering. This year was the first year a group of students had participated right through from S1 to S3.
From the outset the main aims of the programme included; developing confidence, increasing attendance, improving resilience and promoting life skills/independent living. As the students progressed through the three year programme there was anecdotal evidence to suggest that the main aims were being achieved. In school – greater engagement, better attendance, less exclusion. In the outdoors, on activities – students pushing themselves physically, mentally – working hard caring and cooking for themselves on the residential.
In addition to the main aims – it was apparent the programme resulted in other significant valuable outcomes. Unlike the classroom setting – the flexibility of teaching in the outdoors enabled us to offer students the opportunity to have holistic enriched experiences. The students could learn at their own pace and opt for ‘challenge by choice’ where they set the level they participated at. The progressive nature of the programme ensured students acquired a mastery of skills and became highly proficient – giving them a great sense of achievement.
Repeatedly, students could be seen moving from a fixed to growth mindset. BCHS and Outdoor Learning staff worked hard to gain trust with the students to allow them to take perceived risks and reframe their fears of failure. Relationship building was a key feature, and took place in the school, the store, the mini-bus and right up to – reassuring, confidence building conversations on the edge of sea outcrops before submersion! The instant feedback often lead to a greater desire to learn and embrace further challenges. In some cases setbacks would take place, but through further discussion, persistence and resilience participation would continue and personal achievements where celebrated and embraced.
Working with such groups addressing some of the issues highlighted above, will inevitability raise attainment, but it requires programmes to take place over a number of years and to be central to other school based learning. When it comes to raising attainment the Outdoor Learning Service is multi-dimensional across all school stages in the authority – for more information follow this link.
In reflection, this programme is an example of great partnership work and highlights one of the many valuable learning strategies that the Outdoor Learning Service provides. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Beeslack Community High School over the last three years.