SDC Discovers Outdoor Learning – Shock

Posted in: News and Updates

The Sustainable Development Commission argues, plausibly enough, that "... We have still not seen the kind of transformation (to sustainability) that is needed".  In response, It launched in 2008 'Breakthroughs for the 21st Century' with the aim of creating a "dynamic and hard-hitting portfolio of ideas that could really inspire policy-makers and others to set the UK much more decisevely on the part to becoming a sustainable society".  19 of these ideas made the cut.  You can find them here, and here as a pdf: sdc_breakthroughs.

Given that a "breakthrough is something that moves us decisively away from the status quo or the usual incremental change", I was bemused to see that one of the 19 is "natural values: outdoor experiences for all".  This relies heavily on Richard Louv's, to my mind, unthought through notion of nature deficit disorder.  More importantly, however, where, I wondered does this leave the UK's learning outside the classroom manifesto that is not mentioned at all.  Even more significantly, perhaps, where does this leave indoor (ie, inside the classroom) education - because that's not mentioned either.  It is as if all we need to do is to get out more.

This SDC breakthrough is sponsored by Kate Rawles and Chris Loynes of the  School of Outdoor Studies at the University of Cumbria.  In a recent posting to the Outdoor and adventure education research [OUTRES@JISCMAIL.AC.UK]   Rawles and Loynes say: "We would be delighted to hear from anyone who is working in this area and to find out what you are doing and how it is going. We would be particularly interested in any evaluations of projects of this kind, as we plan to develop an evidence base to support the lobbying that will take place at policy and strategy levels."

Silly me!  How naive; there was I thinking that an evidence base might be in place before SDC endorsed this idea.

Posted in: News and Updates


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  • The SDC may be suffering from 'long-term memory deficit disorder' in relation to a number of its "breakthrough" ideas. Take "encouraging communities to grow and eat local food", for example.

    Growing on common land probably goes back to the Saxon period, and the first mention of allotments is under Queen Elizabeth 1st. Allotment Acts were passed in 1887, 1908 and 1950 (

    According to archaeologists, "community gardens" have exisited since the beginning of cities, and according to the BBC, "UK residents have relied on community gardens as an important source of food for hundreds of years." Bethabara Park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dates back to 1759, and Islington's Culpeper Community Garden began in 1982.

    So, if the activities themsleves are not exactly a "breakthrough", is it the ideas to advance them that are "dynamic and hard-hitting"? The SDC suggests a "competition" and a "funding proposal".

    The philosophy of "outdoor experiences for all children in the UK" can be traced back at least as far as Jean-Jauqes Rousseau (Emile: or, on Education, 1762). Interestingly, the book was an inspiration to some people, but was burned by others...

  • To add to the fray. Of course, this failure to connect can cut both ways, much as it seldom fails to astound! I am reminded of Ofsted's report on Learning Outside the Classroom, which amazingly failed to acknowledge, ESD, environmental education or sustainable schools in any way at all [although it did, I think, mention that there might be such a thing as a 'learning environment']. Sometimes it feels as if the work that we and thousands of schools and practitioners have been engaged in has never happened at all.