Outdoor and Nature Based Learning

Learning in the Outdoors

As part of a University leading the way in creating a greener future, the Edinburgh Earth Initiative are supporting academics and staff across the University of Edinburgh to integrate nature-based and outdoor learning into their teaching practice to enhance sustainable education outcomes. Below, we suggest ways of conceptualising this type of learning, and put forward practical guidelines, site details, and resources to enable educators to transform where and how they teach.

Nature-Based Learning is an evolving term that captures the idea that experiences in ‘nature’ and the outdoors can and should be used to boost academic learning, encourage personal development, and foster environmental stewardship. There is no singular, set way of approaching teaching in the outdoors. Instead, a broad range of approaches and conceptualisations are encouraged to ensure relevancy and appropriateness across diverse disciplines and locations. From taking lectures outside, to field trips, to community-based projects and inquiry-based learning, there is huge range and opportunity under this umbrella term to transform and deepen the type of learning that happens at the University of Edinburgh.

Nature-Based Learning invokes the idea that purposeful teaching in the outdoors can boost academic learning, personal development, and environmental stewardship. As an educational approach, it emphasises the use of natural environments and outside spaces as meaningful and important settings for education. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that teaching in outside spaces can promote learning by improving learners’ attention, levels of stress, self-discipline, interest and enjoyment in learning, physical activity and fitness, and community and cohort-building.

What is Learning in the Outdoors?

Why Is It Important?

Things to Consider . . .


Developed by leading academics in Outdoor Environmental Education and Learning in the Outdoors, the materials in this section will support those looking to deepen their nature based learning practice, as well as providing pointers and considerations for those taking their first steps in this area.

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Sites for Learning

Interactive maps of greenspaces available for use across University of Edinburgh Campus, and the City of Edinburgh. Maps give site details, examples of learning projects previously delivered, and relevant details about delivering teaching in these spaces.

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A collection of resources to support teaching in a variety of contexts, for different learners across different locations. From workshop examples to risk assessment templates, this section gives you some tools you might need to deliver meaningful nature-based and outdoor learning experiences.

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Student Voices

This short film captures the student voice on why nature-based and outdoor learning is important to them and what they would like to see more of at the University of Edinburgh.

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