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Outdoor education key to tackling future climate change

03.11.2004


Without making outdoor education a statutory part of every child’s schooling, the government risks undermining its ability to tackle important environmental issues such as climate change, the British Ecological Society has warned.



Reacting to yesterday’s adjournment debate on schools and fieldwork in the House of Commons, Debbie Smith, the BES education officer said: “Outdoor classroom education allows students to connect abstract scientific ideas with ‘hands on’ experiences. Biological fieldwork may provide the only opportunity for students to observe living animals and plants in their natural habitat and promote a deeper understanding of the investigatory approaches that underpin the whole of science.”

“The ability to address important environmental issues, such as the impact of climate change, will be undermined in the future if there is not a strong skills base in certain areas such as ecology and taxonomy. This will in turn have a significant impact on our ability to understand and manage changes to biodiversity and other natural resources in the future. The BES believes outdoor education is so important that the government must make sure that it is a part of every child’s education by making it a minimum statutory entitlement,” Smith added.


In its response to the House of Commons education and skills committee’s current inquiry into education outside the classroom, the BES recommends that, as well as making biological fieldwork a requirement rather than an option in the Biology curriculum at all key stages, government funding for fieldwork should be ring-fenced. Support for teachers also needs to be improved.

According to Smith: “There is now a critical shortage of biology teachers with the academic and professional skills to support planning and organising fieldwork in both schools and universities. Teachers, including trainees, need much more support in developing the skills, confidence and commitment to deliver out-of-classroom activities. There are presently no clear recommendations for outdoor teaching experience of biology fieldwork within the national curriculum for teacher training in science. Therefore, a minimum entitlement for every trainee teacher specialising in science to have experience in leading a fieldwork activity is needed to rectify this deficiency.”

A report published by the BES and the Field Studies Council in 2002 presented strong evidence of the decline in biology fieldwork in schools. Commenting on the report, Teaching biology outside the classroom: Is it heading for extinction? Professor Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society said: “Our young people are being let down if their science education does not include a field experience. . . I urge the stark message of this report to be taken very seriously.”

Becky Allen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

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