Outdoor learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Funding for Virtual Nature School.

Children and families are to benefit from expert guidance on learning and play in an outdoor environment during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Funding of £159,000 is being given to Living Classrooms to expand their Virtual Nature School programme, providing professional training and learning materials to early learning and childcare (ELC) practitioners. This will help them support the delivery of outdoor play sessions for children who usually attend their settings.

Up to 2,000 practitioners will receive training on the Virtual Nature School’s digital platform and about 20,000 families will benefit. The focus will initially be in areas of higher deprivation, where children will benefit most.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve children’s wellbeing and resilience, as well as their physical and mental health. It also gives children the opportunity to develop a life-long appreciation of the natural world.

“This is particularly important during the current circumstances, when we are all having to spend so much more time indoors.

“This programme will make a real difference to help families with their home learning, while maintaining a vital connection with the ELC settings and key workers that children are used to having contact with. That will help when the time comes for youngsters to return to those settings.”


The Virtual Nature School (VNS) is a non-profit programme created by Living Classrooms in response to the needs of children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is led by Dr Claire Warden, manager of Auchlone Nursery, Living Classrooms and Mind Stretchers Academy.

The programme currently provides home learning support to non-keyworker families, many of whom normally attend the Auchlone Nursery, where children are unable to attend settings. Sessions are delivered online, with families being supported to carry out outdoor play-based tasks and evaluate their learning.

The programme will be delivered across two eight-week cohorts.


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