Scottish university’s new outdoor learning hub set for official opening

Principal says initiative is part of ‘fresh approach to teaching education’

A pioneering new outdoor learning hub and discovery trail will be opened at Queen Margaret University (QMU) tomorrow.

The initiative aims to help equip existing and future teachers, as well as community educators and volunteer leaders, with the knowledge and skillset to confidently use outdoor spaces and places to enhance learning.

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Located within the grounds of the QMU campus at Musselburgh, the hub has been created with the support of Architecture & Design Scotland and NatureScot.

The Howff, part of Queen Margaret University's outdoor learning hubThe Howff, part of Queen Margaret University's outdoor learning hub
The Howff, part of Queen Margaret University's outdoor learning hub

Its central feature is The Howff, a hand-crafted wooden shelter with a wildflower roof, skylight dome and windbreak, which can be used as a gathering place or teaching facility for students, staff and the community. The bespoke shelter was crafted by Tree-ditions, an East Lothian maker, using traditional skills and local timber.

The discovery trail is a route round the campus, following way-markers, that provides an accessible route through woods, terraces, meadow, pond, hedgerows and the university’s wee forest.

Each point on the trail marks a different type of environment that gives people opportunities for activity, learning and wellbeing.

Sir Paul Grice, principal of Queen Margaret University, said: “When we introduced primary teaching and a PGDE [postgraduate teaching qualification] to our course portfolio at QMU in 2019, we resolved to take a fresh approach to teaching education.

"One aspect of this has been a focus on outdoor learning, and we have gone on to become a leading advocate for the inclusion of outdoor learning, and learning for sustainability, within education courses. The outdoor learning hub is a physical manifestation of our commitment to outdoor learning.

“We are grateful to our partners who share our vision for the hub, which will enrich our teaching curriculum, enhance our student experience, and support the delivery of outdoor learning qualifications for the teaching profession.

“We are proud to play an important role in linking education with the natural world, health, citizenship and environmental protection.”

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Lesley Riddell Robertson, principal designer at Architecture and Design Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have collaborated with QMU and supported them with the creation of the outdoor learning hub and discovery trail. We believe the hub, and associated resources, have the potential to improve and enhance the outdoor learning experiences and environments of young people across Scotland.”

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