The General Teaching Council for Scotland

28 Sep 2017

Learning potential in greenspaces

Sharon Cunningham, Outdoor Learning Officer, Scottish Natural Heritage

Have you discovered the learning potential in your local greenspace?

Learning for Sustainability, which includes outdoor learning, is firmly embedded in the GTCS Professional Standards. Your pupils have an entitlement to Learning for Sustainability and daily contact with nature. Outdoor learning is known to have numerous positive impacts, including on physical and mental health. Learning in green or natural spaces can lead to greater engagement and challenge and enjoyment - and greater engagement and challenge and enjoyment can lead to raised attainment! 

Our new resource Beyond your Boundary: easy steps to learning in local greenspace:

Be it an unloved grassy area, a woodland owned by a neighbour, a large local authority park, or anything in between, taking learning in to local greenspace can open up almost endless possibilities!

  • "I can't believe we have existed so closely to this place and never made use of it… I felt that the curricular areas were endless.” P1 teacher, North Lanarkshire
  •  “After the first visit my brain was buzzing with ideas… I think this will have a very memorable impact on the class.” S3 teacher, Fife
  • "I didn’t know how close I live to nature.” S5 pupil, Clydebank

You may already use your establishment's grounds for learning and sometimes take trips further afield, so why should you bother learning in local greenspace?  Your local greenspace is likely to be more diverse than your grounds, offering a greater diversity of learning opportunities:  to apply concepts in a real context; capitalise on seasonal and other changes; experience the unexpected; use natural items; foster creativity and imagination; build resilience and independence - in fact, opportunities are almost infinite!  

Engaging with your local greenspace can foster in your pupils a sense of place and stewardship and encourage the wider community to engage and value their local greenspace too. Connection to nature can last a lifetime and be a foundation for pro-environmental behaviours, helping your pupils become true responsible citizens.

Your local greenspace is on your doorstep. 

Learning in local greenspace is cost effective and easier to sustain than trips further afield, making it more likely you can embed it throughout the school and across the curriculum.

Not yet convinced or need to convince others?  Find out more about the Scottish educational policy that supports learning in local greenspace and what the research says in the resource.

Beyond your Boundary

Beyond your boundary has been designed to be viewed onscreen, reducing printing costs for schools and offering clickable links to other sources of support. Read the introduction for some tips on how best to navigate through the document to get the most out of it.  Being online also enables us to keep the resource up to date and incorporate the experiences of schools that are learning in local greenspace, including those taking part in the 'Learning in local greenspace project': part of Scotland's Biodiversity: a Route Map to 2020. Indeed, teachers’ experiences are already a strong part of the resource, which was created in partnership with a working group of practicing teachers and Education Scotland.  We’d love to hear about your learning in local greenspace. 



More information

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government’s adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland.  Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland’s nature now and in the future.  For more information, visit our website at:

Or follow us on Twitter at