Teachers in the UK need to embrace the notion of encouraging children to ‘have a go’ through developing opportunities for risk and challenge in play and learning. One way in which children can realise these ambitions is through developing opportunities for learning outdoors and not be constrained by the UK weather. So says Jo Traunter, Programme Director for the Centre of Educational Studies at the University of Hull.

Her comments come after returning from a fact finding visit to Norway where she was involved in negotiating an exchange programme for University of Hull trainee teachers. Already heavily involved in promoting the positive effects of Forest Schools and outdoor play amongst her students, Jo is keen to provide students with more outdoor experiences.

She said “During my visit to Norway, I spent time with student teachers and a kindergarten class in the ice and snow, indeed the sub-zero conditions worked as learning opportunities rather than barriers to learning. They worked with the children to build igloos and other structures and even how to make ice cream. All the children were warm and safe and having a wonderful time learning in nature.

“I now hope that our University of Hull students will be able to benefit from the same experiences thanks to a two way exchange programme that we are looking to introduce.  We are scoping a range of options so our trainee teachers can take advantage of the experience of working in a kindergarten in Norway and/or taking some modules in a Norwegian University.

“Our student teachers value the work we do with them in Forest Schools in Hull. They learn how to use nature and the outdoors to teach young children a wide range of skills and knowledge. The children quickly learn to understand boundaries and how to keep themselves safe. Whilst we have seen many schools embrace the idea of working in the outdoors, our British culture and inclement weather sometimes are considered a barrier. We have to get past the idea that if it is raining we have to take the children indoors. If the Norwegians can play in the ice and snow then there is no reason why our children shouldn’t experience the same opportunities for learning and importantly the same fun. It really is just a matter of having the right clothing and the right attitude.

“It is our job as educators of the next generation of teachers to challenge them to embrace a new way of thinking. That is why members of staff within the Centre of Educational Studies are currently undertaking training and research alongside Nottingham Trent University to become an accredited Forest School centre.  By giving our students access to the outdoors both in the UK and overseas, we can facilitate a new generation of practitioner who is knowledgeable and experienced in the value of learning in nature, providing valuable opportunities for children’s learning and development.”

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