Discover the Importance of Outdoor Learning and Play with Juliet Robertson

The Wild Minds Podcast Season 1, Episode 3

We were blessed to have author and leading Outdoor Learning consultant Juliet Robertson join us on The Wild Minds podcast last season. It was such a wonderful inspirational conversation full of vulnerability and insights.

For those who are unfamiliar with Juliet’s work, she is an influential figure within the outdoor learning space. Her book and her blog, Creative Star, are valuable resources packed with outdoor learning tips. We are extremely grateful for all that Juliet has given to the education sector, especially surrounding outdoor learning.

Juliet and Marina dive deep together, discussing everything from the link between nature and our health to the importance of outdoor learning and play. Juliet opens up about her life-threatening illness and shares her thoughts on the future of learning outdoors.

outdoor learning with Juliet Robertson

Juliet’s Journey

Juliet was diagnosed with terminal acute myeloid leukaemia, which has left her grateful for each and every day that she is alive and well.

She is full of courage, and since her diagnosis, Juliette has stopped rushing around and has found joy in the simple moments at home or on her daily walks in her hometown.

During our conversation, Juliet expresses that she is grateful for the hard times she faced early in life that prepared her to face her cancer diagnosis without the anger or frustration that usually comes with that kind of diagnosis.

Life is a privilege, and a well-lived life is all you can strive for.

As a head teacher, she had more influence than a standard primary teacher. But with that influence came the responsibility of managing a tight budget and allocating funds appropriately.

Prior to going into teaching, Juliette received a degree in environmental science and worked with children outside. She was also an archaeologist and a countryside Ranger and volunteered with various conservation projects.

In her third year of teaching, in 1994, she had a particularly challenging class, and instead of waiting until the summer term to do weekly woodland visits, she moved that straight into September.

The difference was astonishing!

The Link Between the Outdoors and Our Health

Juliet has experienced the well-documented health benefits of being outdoors. Something miraculous happens to our minds and bodies when we step outside and let the sunshine hit our cheeks, or the breeze rustle our hair. It inspires us and awakens us in a way that nothing else can.

Are Qualifications Necessary to Take Learning Outside?

Since Juliet’s early years as a lead teacher in the 90s, the overall understanding and appreciation for outdoor learning and outdoor education have grown significantly. These days, the question isn’t “Why would you take education outside?” but rather, “Why wouldn’t you take education outside?”

There has been a significant shift towards taking children out into nature, and the beautiful part is that you don’t need to be qualified to take children to a woodland or a beach.

You only need to be relatively competent and willing to follow the health and safety requirements.

Outdoor learning and play are an essential part of every child’s education, and it’s not something reserved for specialists. “We need everybody out there.”

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The Importance of Outdoor Play

Broadly speaking, “outdoor learning is any learning that takes place outdoors, and outdoor play is any play that takes place outdoors.” That could look different for different people.

For Juliet, it looks like giving a child the freedom to choose what they do, how they do it, and to whom they do it. In an ideal world, they would even be free to choose where they play within boundaries.

It comes down to them having the choice and allowing their curiosity to guide them.

Breaking Cultural Assumptions About Learning

“There is an underlying cultural assumption that real learning happens indoors, and the only way to counteract that is to absolutely persistently challenge it.

To challenge it with great examples of learning and play that are happening outside.”

As we document and share great examples of outdoor learning and play, it is vital that we meet the leaders of the education sector where they are at; speak their language. Rather than speaking the language of the outdoors, we need to speak the language of education.

But remember, it’s not just attitudes that need to shift but hearts as well. Educators need not only to believe that it is possible to bring learning outdoors but worth it as well.

Outdoor Learning is More than a Single Subject

Outdoor learning and play involve more than discovering the secrets of nature. While exploring the outdoors, kids can develop valuable life skills like problem-solving, self-sufficiency, teamwork, and practical skills.

Sometimes, outdoor learning involves hands-on instruction or guidance. While other times, it may be driven by curiosity and exploration. Outdoor play in an educational context encourages children to learn and play in perfect harmony.

In Summary

We can see in Juliet Robertson’s own life that intermingling with nature has a beautiful effect on one’s overall well-being.

Nature can elevate one's mind, body, and spirit. Juliet’s work shows us how learning and playing in nature supports a child’s growth and development.

We want our kids to have the best education possible and the best future possible, and in terms of wellness and holistic growth, outdoor learning and play will help get us there.

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