Linking Outdoor Learning to the Curriculum

Picture of Calum


International Primary Teacher and Outdoor Learning Specialist, with over ten years experience. I hold an MSc in Outdoor Education and PGDE in Primary Education.

Finding Connections

Finding connections between the classroom and the outdoors may be essential for justifying teachers’ use of outdoor learning as part of their practice. It is generally accepted within primary education that interdisciplinary connected experiences can be more conducive to learning (Prince, 2018). However, teachers can often feel pressured to deliver certain curricular experiences, and may turn to more efficient and comfortable ways to achieve them (Wait, 2010). Showing that many curricular experiences can be facilitated outside, or that outdoor activities can support and extend classroom learning with little preparation, can play a big role in getting teachers outside with their classes more often.


Learner demonstrates his understanding of place value using natural materials.
Curriculum Outcomes

Certain curriculum areas, such as geometry in mathematics, arts and crafts and environmental sciences, easily lend themselves to the outdoor learning approach, and I started by teaching these more obvious outcomes. However, through trial and error and reflecting on my teaching, I found that using the outdoors as a stimulus for literacy was becoming a more significant theme in my practice. I saw many creative and poetry-writing opportunities. I also found that my learners also enjoyed mathematical scavenger hunts, where they had to find an answer to mathematical questions hidden around the playground. I also discovered several simple ways to explore place value with my learners outdoors. This is an example of how helpful it is to adopt an exploratory approach when teaching outdoor learning, discovering what your learners engage with the most.


Learner collecting figurative language outside to create a tree poem.

I also found that iPads were a fantastic tool for recording children’s learning. I particularly like using the Book Creator app to make information books and storybooks using the outdoor environment settings.


Learners create their backgrounds ready to make an ocean-themed storybook using the Book Creator App.

Science outcomes can lead to many excellent tasks to do with students outside, including exploding volcanoes, floating and sinking catapults and weather stations.


Learners enjoy making exploding volcanoes as part of their science topic.

The environment where the learning takes place is a learning tool, and so much can be discovered and learned from just being present in it. Therefore, the pursuit of intended outcomes should be balanced with the children’s discovery of unintended outcomes (Mannion et al., 2013).


Life skills

Most primary curriculums include not just subject outcomes but also social and emotional outcomes. Outdoor learning presents many opportunities for students to learn essential life skills. Facilitating outdoor learning experiences inevitably supports the learning of life skills even if the intended curriculum outcome isn’t as effectively covered as hoped. I found goals such as resilience, ethics, communication and adaptability are almost always present in my lessons, even within my most straightforward tasks.


Learners use their problem-solving skills to build a suspended nest for a red squirrel using string and natural materials.
Relationship Between the Classroom and the Outdoors

We often draw clear boundaries between outdoor environments and classrooms. Maybe it is time to stop seeing the two as separate entities. Lessons don’t have to be limited to one location or another. The learning from the outdoors can be extended in the classroom, and the teaching in the classroom can be developed outside the school. The two entities should become one.


Using pictures taken in the playground to design a butterfly that camouflages to its playground habitat.

I hope you’ve found this post interesting and informative. For a more in-depth look at this topic, you can delve into the reading list below. My next post will discuss where outdoor learning can take place.


Related Posts

What Is Outdoor Learning?

Using Woodland Animal Characters to Enhance Outdoor STEM and Environmental Awareness Projects


Mannion, G., Fenwick, A., & Lynch, J. (2013). Place-responsive pedagogy: learning from teachers’ experiences of excursions in nature. Environmental Education Research, 19(6), 792–809.

Prince, H. E. (2018). Changes in outdoor learning in primary schools in England, 1995 and 2017: lessons for good practice. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 19(4), 329–342

Waite, S. (2010). Losing our way? The downward path for outdoor learning for children aged 2–11 years. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 10(2), 111–126.