Urban Pursuit Woodland Academy: designing, implementing and evaluating an outdoor curriculum

  • Knowler, Helen L (Principal Investigator)

Project Details


The key aim of this project is to develop a range of curriculum materials for an outdoor ‘Woodland Academy’ that is currently being established by Urban Pursuit, an alternative education provider in Bristol. ESRC Impact Acceleration Award funds will be used to enable the Project Lead and two existing doctoral researchers from the Graduate School of Education (GSoE) to develop their collaboration with staff members from Urban Pursuit todevelop, trial and evaluate units of work and related resources for Key Stage 3 pupils (ages 11-14), based on STEM subjects, that are National Curriculum compliant and feature the elements of’ ‘good practice’ identified in PI’s research to date. Urban Pursuit is a local, not for profit, Community Interest Company that works to prevent the permanent exclusion of pupils from mainstream education in Bristol by
working with schools and Local Authorities. Set up in 2011, the founders are experienced teachers committed to providing an engaging and innovative education experience for disaffected young people. To date, Urban Pursuit has worked with 14 schools in Bristol and has worked with almost 200 children and young people. Urban Pursuit is at a crucial stage in its business development and is seeking to work with Education experts in GSoE to develop a range of curriculum materials that can be used within its new ‘Woodland Academy’
facility launching in September 2015. IAA resources will be utilised to facilitate the development of curriculum resources and to produce three ‘units of work’ in Science, Technology and Mathematics.

Layman's description

Helen Knowler, a Senior Lecturer in Education, has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ERSC) to develop an innovative treehouse-style outdoor learning environment for teenagers who struggle to cope in school.

Knowler was awarded the Exploratory Impact award from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account for her project ‘Urban Pursuit Woodland Academy: designing, implementing and evaluating an outdoor curriculum’.

The project marks the beginning of an exciting collaboration between researchers at the Graduate School of Education (GSoE) and Urban Pursuit, a not-for-profit alternative education provider based in Bristol that provides outdoor learning opportunities for learners in Key Stage 3. To date, Urban Pursuit has worked with 14 schools in Bristol and with over 200 children and young people.

Over the course of the 18-month project, Knowler (Principal Investigator) and Neil Dennison from Urban Pursuit (Project Supervisor) will develop a range of engaging curriculum materials in Mathematics, Science and Technology that will delivered outside the classroom in a tree-house style learning environment. Once fully trialled and evaluated, the materials will form part of the wider Woodland Academy curriculum that will eventually include all National Curriculum subjects.

GSoE Head of School Professor Justin Dillon will be working with the team as a Project Advisor, drawing from his extensive experience of science learning outside the classroom, particularly in museums, science centres and botanic gardens in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

Knowler said: ‘This funding has created an important opportunity for the project team to demonstrate the impact of our research by looking closely at educational interventions and curriculum design. The expertise of Neil and his team will be important in supporting us to test out our ideas about what kind of learning opportunities and curricular activities support engagement and enjoyment and the role of alternative approaches to education in developing inclusive approaches to learning.’
Effective start/end date1/04/1531/12/16


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