What makes a good flock?
And then the concept grew. If we’re going to buy weeks for lots of groups, can we research its impact? What does a really good Outdoor Week of Learning look like? All the centres offer something slightly different, but are there common threads that would really enhance the children’s experiences?
The OWL Collaboration can be likened to a flock of birds: we have learned that by flying together in formation we can reach our goals faster and more effectively.
An important part of the Collaboration is the Community of Practice established across the centres. So many individual centres around the UK work in isolation. The shared learning and support system that is developing from The OWL Collaboration is wonderful to see.
We are underpinning the project with impact evaluation on the week of learning – measuring four pillars of impact: improved mental health and wellbeing, a stronger connection to nature, care and concern for the environment and better engagement with school.
Migrating the benefits
We have been operating for seven months now and have funded 830 children from 37 schools to visit an outdoor centre. The centres selected all have a particular focus on working with small groups of children who would benefit from therapeutic support and all are farming and environment based.
So far, the Collaboration involves seven outdoor learning centres, but we need to expand. We need more centres throughout the UK. Funding more centres will enable us to fund more children.
We need to reach those schools who have never ventured on a residential visit. The difficult-to-reach schools with difficult-to-reach pupils will need more support and encouragement from the Ernest Cook Trust Learning team, so we’re growing our own team, ready to step in.
“We went on an OWL just before Christmas with some of our most disadvantaged students. During their experience, they developed practical outdoor skills and their confidence and engagement since attending this trip has dramatically improved. I firmly believe that interventions like this are an integral part of improving the lifechances of the most vulnerable in our society.” Head Teacher
The Ernest Cook Trust has provided £710,500 in direct grants to Schools and Outdoor Learning Centres and we will commit a further £2M to The OWL Collaboration over the next three years. The Dulverton Trust has joined us in the Collaboration and is funding transport and teacher training costs for the current visits.
Can your Trust or Foundation join us in this exciting new collaboration? Do you already fund farm or environmental based outdoor learning centres that might benefit from the Community of Practice and rigorous impact evaluation that OWL entails?
Please get in touch. I promise not to Twitter on about it, but OWL really is soaring to great heights and we need you in our flock!
Visit this collaboration opportunity on the Funders Collaborative Hub