Outdoor Classrooms - A handbook for school gardens

Vicky Gould | Tuesday, 7th January 2014
A vital resource full of practical and inspiring ideas to help parents and teachers get gardens into schools. Lets teach all children the importance and fun of growing food sustainably and create a whole new outdoor classroom experience.
Author: Carolyn Nuttall and Janet Millington
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2013
RRP: £16.95

After reading this book, I felt I wanted to come out of retirement and help put all the ideas outlined in this book into developing gardens in schools! It is so full of inspiring ideas and illustrations and it takes you through all the ideas slowly and gradually so that you can see how multiple ‘outdoor classrooms’ can be fitted into small school grounds. The time has come to value outdoor classrooms as much as the computer suite.

The publication of this book is very timely, with sustainable development and climate change being removed from the UK National Curriculum. Now climate change is only overtly introduced during GCSEs and, in this era of the curriculum coming from the top down, this is a lovely way to start from the ground up – literally.

Not that this book is about climate change per se, but it is an incredibly informative book on how to take more ‘learning’ outdoors. It explains how to create an outdoor classroom, in fact multiple outdoor classrooms, for the whole school, whether primary or secondary. Both Janet and Carolyn are two Australian teachers with backgrounds in permaculture, influenced by the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. By default, sustainability and caring for the earth can be introduced back into the curriculum and permaculture design principles applied to classroom teaching and learning.

This is a very useful resource for teachers, adults or parents linked to schools to read and to help get ideas on how to start the process. It is brimming with charts, lists, diagrams and illustrations to encourage you to get gardening in school. There are also long term plans and many curriculum links. It is very practical and acknowledges the difficulties that might be faced, giving suggestions on how to overcome them. For example, the book suggests ways of managing the garden during holidays. This kind of problem is not insurmountable, but it does need good organisation and the involvement of the whole community. There are also some uplifting case studies documenting schools that have successfully developed their outdoor classrooms, even in an inner city area of Bradford with an intake of 400.

I think that every school in Great Britain should, at the very least, be sent a copy of this book. We need books to inspire head teachers and teachers to get children into the outdoors. The book points out that ‘the average European child spends 90% of their life inside’; this fact alone should alert us all to the importance of Outdoor Classrooms.

Buy Outdoor Classrooms for just £12.71 from PM's Green Shopping in Europe or from Chelsea Green Publishing in the USA. An eBook version for laptops and desktops is now available. Coming soon! Versions for Kindle, iTunes devices, Kobo.

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