Grants open outdoor learning to more students

Ruth Peterson | February 2, 2021

An outdoor classroom offering a unique learning opportunity is ready to be discovered by more children and young people in Bradford thanks to a variety of grants.

Bradford College’s Progression to Learning and Work team has successfully bid for the grants with help from the college’s projects team, allowing learners to benefit from the outdoor space at Trinity Green.

Students working in an outdoor classroom
Students working outdoors (photo taken in 2019)

Bettys Trees for Life opens opportunities for schools

Bettys Trees For Life Fund has awarded £3,882 to enable the college to work with five local primary schools. Children from these schools will help plant a miniature orchard and shrubs in the college’s horticultural space.

The funding will buy materials and equipment to enable the children to plant trees and shrubs, for the new edible forest.  It will allow more outdoor activities to take place and open up opportunities for young people to get involved with practical and environmental learning.

Gardening for Disabled Trust enables learners to gain practical skills

The Gardening for Disabled Trust has awarded learners at Bradford College £614 for specialist equipment.  This means more students can benefit from activities in the college’s outdoor classroom.

Helen Rook, Lecturer in Art and Outdoor Studies, said: “This grant has enabled us to purchase specialist gardening equipment for our high needs learners and teach a wider range of students from a variety of backgrounds.

“We aim to provide a practical course to instil long-lasting gardening skills for our high needs learners and 16-18 year olds, so they can pursue gardening at home, or when they finish their studies at College.”

Helen worked closely with Leon Khan, bid writer with the college’s project team, to apply for both sets of funding. The team has successfully bid for grants from a number of different organisations to support a wide range of projects.

Gardening can change young people’s lives

Gardening can change people’s lives, enhance their well-being and help them defy their disability. Helen said: “With the tools we’ve got, we’ve made gardening much more accessible for everyone.”

The outdoor classroom is part of the college’s Progression to Learning and Work provision, which enables high needs learners and 16-18 year olds to further their education, by supporting their English and maths development, alongside learning about a subject of their choosing.

Outdoor learning has benefits for all

Helen said that learning outdoors, has benefits for everyone. She said this has had a great impact on young people who had had poor experiences through the school system and had come to Bradford College with few qualifications. She added: “It really seems to benefit 16-18-year-olds who have experienced mental health issues, or have had chaotic home lives.”

From art to science, outdoor classroom can teach anyone

There is a variety of subjects which can be taught through the outdoor classroom. For example, one student could be doing a botanical drawing with another learning to build a brick wall, whilst others conduct basic botany and science experiments. Helen said; “We don’t have a strict curriculum to follow, which means students have a lot of freedom to explore things which are of interest to them, depending on their needs.”

Learning outdoors promotes agency, through freedom of choice and creates a sense of belonging, as they learn to work as part of a team.  This can contribute to their overall wellbeing and self-esteem.

Benefit for mental health

Helen added: “There is a lot of evidence about being out in nature and being practical. It improves concentration, behaviour and wellbeing, as well as having huge physical benefits too.

“It also appeals to people with different learning styles, for example intra-personal, kinaesthetic and naturalistic learners.

“The structure of the course, the fact it’s not formal, is offering a different way to learn.”

About Progression To Learning and Work

Progression to Learning and Work aims to help students learn new skills, and gain self-confidence at Bradford College. Students take part in tasks both in and out of the classroom and get the skills they need to start their career or move on to further study. Find out more on the Bradford College website.

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