What does Udeskole mean? It is a general term that refers to curriculum based teaching outdoors or in a natural environment on a regular basis. It promotes a pupils activity level, well-being and academic learning. It is what I would understand by the term Outdoor School.
Researchers from Denmark are interested to understand how Udeskole can support curriculum-based teaching as opposed to the curriculum taught in mainstream schools. What are the strengths and weaknesses of both types of education? I am interested in the concept of Udeskole because this education outside the classroom is targetted for children aged 7-16, and means for educators planning compulsory learning activities outdoors on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
Another useful aspect of Udeskole is that it takes place in natural or cultural settings. This would provide teachers with the opportunity to make links between school and local places. A researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Peter Bentson (2013), has argued ‘the school has focused on the classroom (as a generic learning space), texts (as transferable knowledge) and the teacher (as the knower) in a carefully planned school schedule (as sequences of selected and important knowledge), in a school system that has ignored places, people and activities’, which the researchers add, results in institutionalised learning, disaffected learners, and ignores social and mental-health issues. Importantly, Karen Barford’s (2018) research identified a high incidence of open questions by the teacher and inquiry-lead activity by the child during maths and science activities at Udeskole.
From my experience, I would agree with the above and add that taking the curriculum into the local environment helps children engage with the natural world, appreciate wildlife, become concerned about environmental issues such as litter and pollution. It provides a familiar context for learning that immediately draws upon their knowledge and creates a space for inquiry. It permits teachers to be creative and encourage prosocial behaviours, while individualising learning, remaining supportive of pupil mental-health. Everyone can contribute to the learning at some level. If we are looking to engage learners outdoors with ‘compelling and memorable experiences’ that provide ‘depth’ to knowledge, then educators need to learn from the Scandinavian example and bring the outdoors into the curriculum – science, English, maths, history.
The question we are addressing is how can educators include natural spaces in the national curriculum? And how can learning objectives be transmitted to learners and assessed by teachers when the outside space provides for more than one type of learning experience?
Outdoor School is being developed this term for KS2 children, as seen in the examples under the Sharing Practice tab. Linking to the wider curriculum is an important goal.
To read more about Udeskole see link to downloadable research article: