Helen Bilton

Helen  Bilton

I am Professor of Outdoor Learning and Play at the University of Reading. I am also Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare Education.

Location Reading


  • @SophieWood I agree we need to be able to understand another point of view.

  • @HelenLehart What outrage has there been Helen? And why?

  • @MaryemOULHSAINE We do have this course for secondary staff as well and its running now.

  • Hi Courtney, great news. Where are you applying to?

  • @ChikaOlakitan We hope this course helps.

  • @RitaBini You can work in a school as a teaching assistant as long as the school takes you on. Different schools have different expectations.

  • @JuliannaSilvester The school/setting would have to pay although some garden centres might give you bulbs for free, especially if you explain who you are. You can pay $5 for a bag of say 100 bulbs. But that may change. Record the condition of the soil, means examining if it is wet, dry, has sand, lime, stones, colour, etc in it. So children get used to close...

  • @MariaMarques Can you share some of the projects you have developed?

  • @FionaWilliams What do you feel children gain from playing, exploring and creating their own activities?

  • @JoannaBrown Would you be able to broaden the teaching so it includes all subjects? And if so what might you do?

  • @SophieBryan You will have to invite us over to have a look at the school.

  • @EzraVento Its great that you view the world/nature/outdoors as a part of your work. Architecture can so often be about buildings without considering the outdoor space. What might be your specialism when you qualify?

  • @ShirleyMiranda I am interested in how you support the school curriculum. Can you give some examples of what you do?

  • @ThoDang You are welcome!

  • @RamonMislang I think all learners would be interested, if you want to share.

  • @RamonMislang That is a really interesting question. What are your thoughts?

  • @RamonMislang Do you think we dont need to teach handwriting if typing/digital is the major way of writing?

  • @AnneV How would you do this?

  • @DebbiePayne Have you looked and what areas have you found?

  • @AnnFernando How do you know this about light?

  • @RyanHartley We are really pleased to hear this. There is so much to learn about children and teaching and still so much we dont know!

  • @RamonMislang What can schools do about this?

  • @RebeccaSharp Is that readiness to learn or readiness for formal school work?

  • @AnnFernando Does the child not have a right to play alone?

  • @NatalieGibson Can you say a little bit more about how this is organised?

  • @AnnFernando I found that point interesting too. We need to be cautious with them though as they can be overwhelming for some children.

  • @sarabrown Where is the school, it sounds interesting.

  • @JaideArmstrong What qualification are they looking for and at what lelve?

  • @DebbiePayne How will you do this?

  • @RebeccaSharp Indeed. So we need to always refer back to the child development which is quite clear about how children develop.

  • @GillMurray I like that. That something can be as low key or all consuming as you wish.

  • @AnnMiller I think its about deciding on one thing you would like to work on. Then gather evidence as to why this will help learning, link it to results and well being. So for example you could go with measuring weather across the year. Or create a bird sanctuary. By taking one topic you dont feel overwhelmed and then support it with evidence. I know this...

  • @AnnMiller Yes, but hard work for you! Evidence is powerful. So showing them evidence from the course, leaving articles lying around. I call it drip feed. Linking results to learning outside.

  • @AlisonHenderson So so true.

  • @ElinaHoudetsanaki You are welcome!

  • @DawnNewton I like your honesty!

  • @ElinaHoudetsanaki We agree. You have to get parents and all staff on side and they need to know from the beginning what type of school you are and what children will be expected to do. Schools need to involve parents too in the work of outdoors. At Patrick's school the caretaker has taken composting on as his interest for example.

  • @DawnNewton They can still compost, they can still grow, they might need to buy a tree and dig a piece of tarmac up, but its all possible. They can still ensure children look after the environment. Its tyres or boxes to hold soil, rathe than the ground, its one tree rather than many. It could be a bird 'sanctuary'. Its all possible though. Whatever is done,...

  • @DawnNewton Hopefully this course will encourage people to see it's not an either or situation. Children can and do learn outside.

  • @DawnNewton Dont make it mighty, do just one thing.

  • @PaulStevens I will let the University know. The DfE want a National Nature Park of all school grounds. Maybe this could be a part of it.

  • @SuzanneAxelsson Very fair comment. Language is important, so thank you for that.

  • @AndrewMcEwen What does this say about what they do indoors?

  • @VeronicaCarter Hopefully week 2 will encourage you, as we have built in the empowerment of the child there.

  • @KurtAckermann My understanding of Canada is that there is a good ethos regards going outdoors. Is that the reality or not? What about Japan, where does outdoor education sit with their culture?

  • @AndrewMcEwen What are the pros and cons of either putting climate education within a subject area, such a science or incorporating it within the whole curriculum?

  • Don’t forget that there are many more additional resources under ‘See Also’ section below on this Step and throughout the whole course.

  • @EmmaPowell I agree with you Emma and the child.

    I do think that children and young adults are asking these questions demonstrates that attitudes are changing.

  • @AnnMiller I like it!

  • @AnnMiller It is writing per se, or is it the type of writing? Writing at tables can be done outside as a choice. As in children choose where to sit to write or read. However, I wonder is it about giving children a reason to write outside, as in collecting data? So then clip boards are very handy.......

  • @AlisonHenderson Can you explain why?

  • @LisaKelly Sounds great. Who drives this work? Is it a whole school commitment?

  • @AnnMiller Any chance you could move classroom?

  • @VeronicaCarter That is nice to hear! Did our paths ever cross?

  • Helen Bilton made a comment

    I hope you’ve enjoyed the whole course and these links to further information and reading are useful.

    I’ll be keeping a close watch on the latest information to to come out of the DFE in particular, to pass on and to consider the best ways to address what is being suggested.

  • @NealBaker Thanks Neal, that is very helpful. Something for us to all discuss as staff groups, but then consider how we raise this for children to discuss.

  • I know you probably get lots of requests for surveys but if you do have the time we’d really appreciate your thoughts on what would be useful further study in this area to help inform the University’s future plans.

  • As we explained in Step 2.5, it’s not possible to cover every aspect of sustainability in this two week course so we focused on two areas very important to our case study school. I’d love to hear about further sustainability learning which could be led outside in the discussion below.

  • Think about the language which we use around waste, for example many of us refer to ‘rubbish’ – does this have an impact on how the children view this?

  • Here’s another idea for finding solutions - Wet wood can be slippery, so you could do the ‘one boot test’ to check if climbing on wooden things is too dangerous for the day.

    Teach the children the ‘one boot test’. This involves sliding the side of your boot/shoe across wet wood and if is slides easily then the wood is too dangerous to climb on. Three year...

  • @AnnMiller What can you do about leadership who wont let children out in the rain?

  • Viewing children as competent rather than vulnerable and needing to be wrapped and protected, is one way to empower children. Giving them the tools to be safe, to be trustworthy, to care for the environment and others helps them to see they do have control and choice. I remember a child fell into the pond at the Oxford school. She was three and not following...

  • Welcome back to Week 2 – I look forward to reading your comments and will be checking the discussions until 11 March.

  • @AlisonHenderson It would be really helpful to us all to know how you have done this.

  • @louisepaterson Could be a combination. A question back to you, why are other children not choosing to go out?

  • @louisepaterson Thank you to the children at the school, they were so lovely the day we and the film crew visited.

  • @ChristopherSmith It sounds like you know what you are doing.

    Be wary of organisations such as Forest School as no one needs a qualification to go outside, teachers already have a qualification, FS accreditation is expensive and what is then done under the banner is limited, limiting and formulaic.

  • @DonJohnson Many people have had the answers to the world issues and a long time ago, one of them being Rachel Carson.

  • Helen Bilton replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    @AlisonHenderson @JoanneSaltfleet I sort of agree and sort of dont. Children riding three wheelers I dont think constitutes true outdoor learning, as there are better things they can do with their time and they simply learn to be on their own in a vehicle. We have enough issues with cars as it is.
    I dont think playtime/recess is outdoor learning as its often...

  • Helen Bilton replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    @JoanneSaltfleet As they do in Berkshire. But it makes for an interesting study to plot their development from planting to blooming and doing this every year.

  • @DaisyDownes I would be interested to hear about this. Do keep me informed.

  • Helen Bilton replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    @JoanneSaltfleet Interesting question. Do you have a definition?

  • @NealBaker What are your thoughts?

  • At the end of the course do come back to these statements to see where you are with your plan.

  • @DaisyDownes When you look out on any given day how many classes/children are outside?
    My sense is start with a year group or key stage that isnt so prescriptive, dont try and cover all classes and then get outdoor work embedded and iron out the issues and then start on the next year group. But it is a long term project. You are talking a year to embed I...

  • @AnnMiller You say you could open up this to freeflow.....Is anything stopping you?

  • @GillMurray You can borrow it but where do you live?

  • @GillMurray In answer to your question 'Is there a problem with the Learning Facilitator not knowing all the facts....', what are your thoughts?

  • @NealBaker Thanks Neal for this, that is helpful. We are wanting to build the evidence and knowledge we have to share with all.

  • @KimLawler The DfE will publish in April 2022 its strategy for climate and sustainability in schools and children's services. So there are plans, but they wont be statutory.

  • @KimLawler You are welcome

  • @KimLawler Lord Knight of Weymouth is trying to add sustainability to the NC as part of citizenship. I suspect it will get through the House of Lords, we will have to see re the House of Commons. But policy makers are starting to understand about the impact of outdoors.

  • Helen Bilton made a comment

    I hope you’ve enjoyed working through Week 1 – it can feel overwhelming to cover climate and sustainability topics or using the outside as a learning space for the first time. My key message is to do one thing, but well, to make it feel more manageable.

    The whole course is available if you’d like to continue onto Week 2 straight away.

  • We hope this top-level overview and the recommended links to further, reliable information are helpful. There are many more additional resources under ‘See Also’ section below on this Step and across the whole course.

  • I love the comment from one of the teachers, that you can simply go outside. You dont need permission through a lesson plan. We go in the hall, we use the library, the corridors for teaching. There is no reason why we cannot simply use outside. It needs to become the norm.

  • @KimLawler I agree its so important to be able to articulate and justify, as you say, to get senior management on your side and its sometimes necessary to convince staff that results will not suffer. There is now so much more research coming through to demonstrate the impact of quality outdoor experiences.

  • If we see the outdoors as simply another learning and teaching environment then we straight away have a different mindset and will think ‘okay how can I exploit how the day is, how can I use the wind, the heat, the darkness to cover an area of the curriculum’. This is easier said than done and building up resources linked to curriculum areas is one way...

  • We asked Patrick (the Headteacher of Floreat Montague Park) to collaborate because of his experience of and passion for outdoor learning which, along with a focus on sustainability, is integrated throughout the daily learning and across the entire school community. It was such a pleasure to join the school on the filming day and see a wide range of outdoor...

  • You’ll see quite a few examples from schools we work with in the Berkshire area. Every school is different and I’ve seen some really interesting and unique approaches to outdoor learning over the years – I’d love to hear more examples in the discussion areas on this course.

  • Welcome to this course, it is great to see you and have you involved!
    We will be facilitating the course, that is responding to comments and postings, for the next two weeks.
    Please do join in the conversation as we are very keen to hear your ideas and thoughts. Only in this way can we start to build a strong body of evidence and a strong voice.
    With this...

  • Its amazing what metaphors you have come up with. So inventive, creative and thoughtful. And different. We hope this helps you understand more clearly your own motivation for working with children.

  • Helen Bilton made a comment

    I have often wondered whether we need to take the word 'sex' out and leave it as relationship education.

  • @IngaSpyrou Interesting metaphor.

  • @NatalieHeller Indeed the child who is invisible, and gets overlooked and shouldnt. We need to seek out the quiet child.

  • @TraceyMackenzie Glad the materials are of use. Let us know how you get on.

  • This is a good observation.

  • Well done for being honest.