Making places for outdoor learning

Pupils standing in a row as they plant trees for Queen Margaret University's Wee Forest.
Published: 24/11/2022

We are working collaboratively with Queen Margaret University on a project to develop an Outdoor Learning Hub on campus that will create access to different environments for learning activity, community engagement, and professional development.

The start of a collaborative partnership

Covid had an immediate impact on the format and focus of our work supporting the Learning Estate, moving naturally towards a focus on outdoor spaces.

In late 2020, we met Patrick Boxall and Chris Green from Queen Margaret University (QMU) as we had heard about the work they were doing with their students at The National Trust’s Newhailes Estate in Musselburgh, their passion for Outdoor Learning, and their desire to develop it further on the QMU campus.

QMU were a perfect match for our aspirations to develop and build on educational and spatial resources specific to Outdoor Learning. Resources that could support teachers, trainee teachers, students and schools.

Having identified unused and underdeveloped areas within the QMU campus, it became clear these could be developed with the department and student teachers as an Outdoor Learning hub. 

Danny Hunter, Principal Architect at Architecture and Design Scotland commented:

“We are delighted to be supporting QMU with the creation of the Outdoor Learning Hub. The project will create a centre for local and national engagement in outdoor learning practice, leadership, and professional development. It will equip current and future teachers, community educators and volunteer leaders with the knowledge and skillset to confidently use outdoor spaces and places to enhance the learner journey of young people across Scotland.”

An outdoor educational resource

We realised the development of the hub could form the basis of Action Research, providing the opportunity to capture and record the process of development from ‘unused space’ to a thriving outdoor educational resource.

Leading the project is Patrick Boxall, Lecturer in Initial Teacher Education at QMU. He explained:

“…We are preparing different outdoor learning spaces and are excited about the opportunities that these and the Hub will be able to offer our own students, staff, the local community, and educators across Scotland […] The Hub will become a place to connect people and communities, and a space for creative learning, research and professional development.”

A pupil holding a sapling ready for planting in the Wee Forest at Queen Margaret University.
Pupils planting the Wee Forest at Queen Margaret University campus in Musselburgh.

This has developed beyond our initial expectations, with interest from many organisations and valuable contributions from NatureScot in the form of the Wee Forest.

The video has been developed by Naka Media and charts the creation of the Wee Forest, the development of the OLH, and the aspirations for the future of the project.

Making Places for Outdoor Learning Short Course

QMU has recently established a short course that is designed to support leaders and practitioners from a range of educational organisations and communities to gain the knowledge and skills that will help them to develop an outdoor place as a context/hub for learning.

This micro-accreditation course is offered as a module at Master's level and is funded in 2022-23 by the Scottish Funding Council-so there are limited number of free places for residents of Scotland who meet the criteria.

You can learn more about this short course here.

For further information about Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, please contact the Press Office:

Images credited to NAKA Media on behalf of Queen Margaret University