Saturday, 20 August 2016

Katie's exhibition and working with Katie

Today we have been to the opening of an exhibition by Katie Forrester, my colleague and friend. We share the same office and taught in the same architecture studio last year. While my PhD looks into children's outdoor learning environment, Katie investigates children's story book illustration through design. Because of our shared research interest (though in different fields), we found the ground to interact and share our experiences related to researching on, with and for children. Afterwards we co-devised an innovative learning week event with children and it was an enlightening experience.  So, when I first heard of the exhibition, I was very excited and wanted to be there the moment it would open.

Courtesy: Katie Forrester

Katie thrives to create a universal language for children's story book illustration with which children from any part of the world can relate themselves and therefore project them in the characters of those stories. As an architect I am aware that the built environment in different culture and climatic context will adhere to the characteristics of that specific context. However, I also acknowledge the common character of biological human beings particularly children which are independent of the culture and context. Children differ more between different developmental stages that different countries in their preferences and characteristics. Therefore, exploring that space where all children are same independent of their background is fascinating. 

I also liked how Katie presented her exploration of that universal language of illustration by four different stories from different parts of the world- the Arabians nights, Grimm brothers, Icarus from Greek mythology and a story she heard from her grandma in her childhood. She also considered different age group of the visitors, keeping children in mind as audience she highlighted some of the illustrations using bright colours in mirrors and different other materials.

Katie is a brilliant illustrator and I hope soon she will illustrate children's books which I would love to read and see. And if at any point of my life I can write a book for children (no harm to dream big, it doesn't cost money, right?) I will love to have Katie as the illustrator (I hope we will have a published to pay for that :-) ).

If you missed the opening, don't be disheartened. The exhibition will continue till 16th September 2016.

Some pictures from the exhibition-







Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Prescription For Better Health? A Dose Of Nature

The Prescription For Better Health? A Dose Of Nature: If everyone who lived in cities went to a park for a half hour every week, there would be 7 percent fewer cases of depression and 9 percent fewer cases of high blood pressure.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Window view: Can it reduce (PhD) stress?

Few months ago, I was struggling with exhaustion and fatigue. My colleagues were saying perhaps I was stressed due to PhD. However, I was wondering why I am facing such exhaustion at that moment rather than the time while I was working almost 24 hours a day building the schoolyard in Bangladesh during my field survey. I also did not feel such fatigue at the early months of my PhD while I did not know whether I would be able to manage the fund to build the schoolyard. Nevertheless I was trying to reevaluate my everyday life, my home or work space. I was advised rest but what I could see from the living room window is this.....

View from the couch of my living room at Wardlaw Place

Well, the bouquet was a gift from my husband to cheer me up but what I could see is the view of the building opposite our flat. I did not want to stay at home from where I could not see the sky or green, yet the wet gloomy weather did not let me go out. I was missing staying at out first flat in Edinburgh which had a wide view of Pentland hills and the sky. Every evening while I came back from the University a wide green view awaited for me, I felt relaxed at home. After working for long hours in front of the computer in an open plan office with less scope of social interaction, now when I am back home, I cant see anything but the closed or curtained window of the flats opposite my window. I don't know whether I was consciously associating my increased stress level with the change in my environment just because I am an environmental designer or any mature conscious adult would do this. Whatever the situation is, this association is hugely supported by research of many years in this area.

View from the couch at Appin Terrace

Amount of window view of natural elements or greenery either in residential, work or educational environments has an impact on people’s cognition, health and well-being. Research shows increased amount of window view of naturalness improve cognitive functioning (Wells 2000), comfort, pleasure and well-being (Stigsdotter & Grahn 2002) and reduce stress related to job and intention to quit (Leather et al. 1998). Nature scenes dominated by vegetation improve general well-being and reduce anxiety (Ulrich 1979), reduce stress in prisoners (Moore 1981), help recover from surgery (Ulrich 1984), lower blood pressure (Hartig et al. 2003), lower heart rate (Laumann et al. 2003) and have general restorative potentials (Laumann et al. 2001)

I could not concentrate in writing or thinking about my PhD during that time. I was stressed and that was lowering my performance. Not only in adults but stress can be predictor of lower academic performance of children and adolescents as mentioned by  Li & Sullivan (2016) drawing on the findings of related studies. Through recovery of stress view of greenery can have positive impact on both primary and high school children’s academic performance (Li & Sullivan 2016; Matsuoka 2010).

How children perceive their surrounding environment is different than the adults. Its inevitable that children’s perceived restorativeness of the environment is different than how adults perceive the restorativeness of the environment. In their research Bagot et al. (2015), after investigating 550 students’ (8-11 years old) perceived restorativeness found that children’s play experiences and perceived restorativeness are strongly correlated with positive affect. Therefore, rather than the physical characteristics of the school playground children associate their restorativeness with their level of physical activity and opportunity of social interaction which should be given consideration while designing their restorative environments.

Severity of symptoms in children with ADHD reduced after being engaged in activities in green settings (Taylor et al. 2001; Faber Taylor & Kuo 2011). In another research Faber Taylor & Kuo (2009) found that a walk in a park setting has more impact on improving concentration in children with ADHD compared to a walk in urban or neighbourhood setting with less greenery. Following the track of Taylor and Kuo’s research, later Roe & Aspinall (2011) explored young people’s behaviour in conventional and forest settings where they found that adolescents with poor behaviour were greatly benefitted from exposure to natural settings, significant effects were found in their energy and hedonic tone and their stress was reduced measured by a questionnaire survey before and after a typical school day and a typical day in forest school. This clearly suggests that children’s poor behaviour can be managed by creating environmental settings with more natural elements. In a multi-methods quasi-experimental study on 133 middle school students in Austria it has been found the renovated schoolyard (more greenery, enhanced seating and sports opportunities and a drinking fountain were added to the existing environment) reduced students’ physiological stress and enhanced their well-being whereas, physiological stress in the students of the control schools were the same or slightly increased over the same time period (Kelz et al. 2013). The change in the schoolyard also partly increased its restorative potentials for the students.

My colleagues were suggesting me to do physical exercise or spending sometime outdoors (though did not stress on it considering the weather). What they did not know is I have changed my lifestyle from my earlier PhD days- I used to run thrice a week, were doing yoga at least twice a week and was walking to and from the University which I did not do before. I also lost some weight and came down to a healthy BMI level. After all these positive changes how come I am tired and exhausted and I stopped doing exercise or yoga which made me really worried about my situation. I found one research finding quite interesting which stated that being 'relaxed' in natural environment was more likely to reduce stress than being engaged in any kind of physical activity (Korpela et al 2001). I was dying to go somewhere else which could bring me the feeling of 'being away' along with fascination, extent and person-environment fit- the four key components that contribute to the feeling of restoration. At that point I have awarded with a residency program to spend three weeks in a small town Huntly, some 50 minutes from Aberdeenshire. Life in the room on the first floor of Old road with view of the hills and life of a small town, working in the kitchen of the Brander building with view of the Brander gardens and going out for a run by the river Deveron whenever I felt like that helped me to pull myself out of the fatigue and exhaustion. I should also mention that I was also taking pills for anaemia and Vitamin D deficiency at the same time. 

My situation might be a discrete incident, however, Outdoor environments have restorative potentials even for young children. After researching 198 children in eleven preschools, Mårtensson et al. (2009) found that children spent more time in the outdoors and were more physically active in the schools with high environment scores and low sky view factors, they also showed less inattention therefore, proving the salutogenic potentials of the outdoor environments.

In a study on 1089 randomly assigned respondents in Finland exploring the restorative experiences in the favourite places Korpela et al. (2008) found that length of stay in the favourite places is positively associated with restoration from stress followed by nature orientedness and frequency of visiting the favourite place. The restorative potentials of waterside environments is very strong, the high frequent visits to such environment and hobbies related to it i.e. swimming, boating or fishing and walking, jogging or berry picking is associated with strong restorative experience too. The authors also suggested that by changing the frequency of visit from once a week to 2-3 times per week would considerably increase the strength of restorative experiences. Therefore, based on the findings from such research, people suffering from stress can be prescribed regular visit their favourite places- both natural and built settings in their vicinity. 

All these findings suggest that design of the environment is important for children and adults' mental health and well-being. People of all ages and abilities should have access to parks or green spaces within a short walking distance from where they live, work or study. What they see from their living, work or study space is crucial which I can relate not only as an environmental designer but as a PhD student with inevitable PhD stress. The physical environment of primary schools should be designed carefully so that children have green view and as well as the opportunity to interact with others and be physically active.

References:

Bagot, K. L., Allen, F. C. L., & Toukhsati, S. (2015). Perceived restorativeness of children’s school playground environments: Nature, playground features and play period experiences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 41, 1–9. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.11.005
Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12(5), 402–409. http://doi.org/10.1177/1087054708323000
Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. M. (2011). Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Evidence from Children’s Play Settings. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 281–303. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01052.x
Hartig, T., Evans, G. W., Jamner, L. D., Davis, D. S., & Gärling, T. (2003). Tracking restoration in natural and urban field settings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(2), 109–123. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(02)00109-3
Kaplan, R. (1989). The experience of nature : a psychological perspective. (S. Kaplan, Ed.). Cambridge : Cambridge .
Kelz, C., Evans, G. W., & Roderer, K. (2013). The Restorative Effects of Redesigning the Schoolyard: A Multi-Methodological, Quasi-Experimental Study in Rural Austrian Middle Schools. Environment and Behavior. http://doi.org/10.1177/0013916513510528
Korpela, K. M., Ylén, M., Tyrväinen, L., & Silvennoinen, H. (2008). Determinants of restorative experiences in everyday favorite places. Health & Place, 14(4), 636–52. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2007.10.008
Laumann, K., Garling, T., & Stormark, K. M. (2001). Rating Scale Measures of Restorative Components of Environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(1), 31–44. http://doi.org/10.1006/jevp.2000.0179
Laumann, K., Gärling, T., & Stormark, K. M. (2003). Selective attention and heart rate responses to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(2), 125–134. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(02)00110-X
Leather, P., Pyrgas, M., Beale, D., & Lawrence, C. (1998). Windows in the Workplace: Sunlight, View, and Occupational Stress. Environment and Behavior, 30(6), 739–762. http://doi.org/10.1177/001391659803000601
Li, D., & Sullivan, W. C. (2016). Impact of views to school landscapes on recovery from stress and mental fatigue. Landscape and Urban Planning, 148, 149–158. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.12.015
Mårtensson, F., Boldemann, C., Söderström, M., Blennow, M., Englund, J.-E., & Grahn, P. (2009). Outdoor environmental assessment of attention promoting settings for preschool children. Health & Place, 15(4), 1149–1157.
Matsuoka, R. H. (2010). Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97(4), 273–282. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.06.011
Moore, E. O. (1981). A Prison Environment’s Effect on Health Care Service Demands. Journal of Environmental Systems, 11(1), 17–34. http://doi.org/10.2190/KM50-WH2K-K2D1-DM69
Roe, J., & Aspinall, P. (2011). The Emotional Affordances of Forest Settings: An Investigation in Boys with Extreme Behavioural Problems. Landscape Research, 36(5), 535–552. http://doi.org/10.1080/01426397.2010.543670
Stigsdotter, U., & Grahn, P. (2002). What makes a garden a healing garden. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 60–69. Retrieved from http://www.protac.dk/Files/Filer/What_makes_a_garden_a_healing_garden_Stigsdotter_U__Grahn_P.pdf
Taylor, A. F., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Coping with add: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54–77. http://doi.org/10.1177/00139160121972864
Ulrich, R. S. (1979). Visual landscapes and psychological well‐being. Landscape Research, 4(1), 17–23. http://doi.org/10.1080/01426397908705892
Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science (New York, N.Y.), 224(4647), 420–421. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402
van den Berg, A. E., Koole, S. L., & van der Wulp, N. Y. (2003). Environmental preference and restoration: (How) are they related? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(2), 135–146. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(02)00111-1
Wells, N. M. (2000). At Home with Nature: Effects of "Greenness" on Children’s Cognitive Functioning. Environment and Behavior, 32(6), 775–795. http://doi.org/10.1177/00139160021972793

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The ‘Thinker’ hat of mine

On the verge of being overwhelmed writing my PhD thesis, I decided to go for a short writing retreat in Berwick upon Tweed. I enjoyed the quiet environment of the small town and wished I could prolong that period. It was hard to believe when I got the news after coming back from Berwick- yes I have been awarded SGSAH’s thinker in residency to work on something related to my PhD research for three weeks at Deveron Arts based in Huntly. Looking closely at the map of Huntly in Google earth, I knew no other place can be more appropriate for PhD ‘thinking’ for three weeks. This report is an account of my experiences in Huntly in those three weeks and also my reflections on that experience.

Week 1_Settling down and setting the expectations

I was welcomed by Sophie, Intern at Deveron Arts and my room-mate for next three weeks at the train station. Though the Google-map said that the house was really close to the train station but I could not imagine how close it was. In fact, nothing in Huntly is far rightly said by Josh, the project manager at Deveron Arts who I met on the next day. During the first week, I discussed with Claudia, Director of Deveron Arts about my goal for the three weeks, what was expected from me and also what I could expect from Deveron Arts that would be helpful in my present research. Though I wrote a proposal (to explore children’s perception of aesthetics related to landscape elements) while applying for the residency, I was reassured that this residency (just like artist in residence) is designed to help PhD students at advanced level of studies to make progress in the work staying in an environment away from their day to day one. I could carry on the writing I was doing or I could work on the proposal I sent. I found Deveron Arts inspired by the philosophy of Patrick Geddes, making their activities local engaging community people which inspired me to explore children’s perception of aesthetics in the context of Huntly. Josh helped me contact the local primary school so that I ccould talk with some children and learn their favourite places and activities (which I could compare to my findings researching with primary school children in Bangladesh and find the similarities and differences in children’s perceptions in different culture and context). I also started studying on perception of aesthetics, development of aesthetics in young children and its relation to stress recovery which would be used to update the literature review of my PhD thesis.
Researching the web resources of Deveron Arts, I had an idea of their activities. However, being there was a different experience. Unlike the post graduate research study space in the university where I work as an isolated self, I became the part of a family. Deveron Arts is a family who cares to spend time together once a week with all the members of the family and also the members of the extended family, the community. The day is generally Friday when the people from the local community were invited to have lunch together with the Deveron Arts family cooked by a member and listen to the lecture of a guest speaker or artist at minimal price. I shared my research on Friday, at the end of the first week with the members of Deveron Arts and some people from the local community. It generated a lively discussion and the comments were valuable for my research. The experience in the stitch share event is also worth sharing where we learnt to embroider and worked on a peace flag for the white wood project. I admit I could never think of doing embroidery sitting in a small village in UK, but doing something out of comfort zone was rewarding in many other ways.
Farmer’s market on Saturday and afterwards the training walk for slow marathon gave me the opportunity to meet some local people in Huntly. Other than climbing tp the top of Arthur’s Seat, this was my first experience of walking through the forest.

Week 2_Writing one Chapter of my PhD thesis

During the second week, I worked mostly from my room on the first floor of 51 Old Road overlooking the hills far far away. I am currently in the writing stage of my PhD and I took this opportunity to give the writing a boost. I worked on a chapter of my PhD in the morning, had lunch at office with other colleagues and spent the afternoon reading the literature on children’s perception of aesthetics. While Josh was away for a seminar, I was able to work in the best corner of the office overlooking the Brander gardens which we would be designing the coming week.
I think, now its time to introduce other colleagues in Deveron Arts- Rachel with whom I shared an office was an alumni from Edinburgh College of Art and Omar, an artist in residence. Besides being a folk musician, Omar is a wonderful cook living in the same house with me and Sophie. He cooked a traditional Moroccan dish for us one night- Tazin (most probably) and couscous. He played Gimbri and danced Moroccan folk dance. We talked about art, music, politics and what not while enjoying Moroccan dishes. I promised Sophie and Omar that I would cook traditional Bangladeshi meal for them.
I explored most of Huntly during these two weeks. I generally went out for a run in the morning. I tried to take a different route every day, therefore explored almost all the nooks and cronies of Huntly. The walking guide from Deveron Arts was very helpful to find the potential routes. My favourite route was from the castle street towards the castle and then running alongside the Deveron river past Huntly outdoor centre. On Friday night we attended a short bread launching ceremony at Scottish Sculpture Workshop. I have been living in Edinburgh for about three years, but I first danced Ceilidh on that night at Lumsden.

Week 3_Seminar, Friday Lunch and Workshop

The last week was intense as I could only spend three days of that week in Huntly. I attended the seminar ‘Living the Land’ where I came across many artists working in rural areas of Scotland in diverse fields. I was able to learn a bit more about the activities of Creative Scotland and how they support the artists. In many areas architects, landscape architects and artists work together in projects for children’s benefits. I have had useful conversations with many participants, though not directly related to my PhD research, gave me an exposure to art works based on the land we are living in for which as a landscape architecture student I do have interest.
I cooked traditional Bangladeshi meal for lunch on the last Friday of my residency where my husband Sheik Rana, a song writer by profession shared his song writing journey in Lunch talk accompanied with some Bangla music played by him. Followed by the lunch I conducted the workshop on designing the Brander gardens with members of Deveron Arts and also some locals. We identified the landscape elements which are liked by the users, not so liked (or needed improvement) and then brainstormed how the garden can be improved. This workshop was an attempt to find out the positive aspects of the landscape which the local community could utilize for creating a better community space.

 

What I achieved and what I did not achieve

These three weeks exposed myself to new information related to artist practices in UK , how my research is related to so many disciplines and how I can improve in my approached to future research based on that. At the same time I made some progress in my core research work. It would have been really helpful if I could have acted more local and gathered some information on children’s experiences in Huntly.

 

Things worth considering

Such an opportunity is desired by any PhD student to make progress on research. However, it would be more beneficial to both the parties if there would be more time for preparation and also setting the expectation before getting in there. I did not get the opportunity to talk to the children, as the teachers were having a busy time before the school holydays which might have been possible if we could have contacted them earlier.

Having a definite achievable goal would help the researcher to make the most of those three weeks. However, one needs to be flexible enough to receive new information and also adapt to the new situation. And the most important thing is to enjoy and not be overwhelmed with expectations.




My heartfelt apologies for the delay in sending the report and also not being able to complete the peace flag.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Review: Outdoor Environmental Education Research Seminar 2016

I attended the Outdoor Environmental Education Research Seminar 2016 at Broomlee Outdoor Education Centre from 13-15 April 2016 organized by the PhD students based in Moray House School of Education, the University of Edinburgh. Different people have different interests and they pick different things from a seminar or talk. This is my account of what I learnt from the Seminar which might not be the same as other participants. However, I enjoyed these three days to the fullest and would like the conversation to be continued.

Based on my perceptions I grouped my learnings under several headings- impact of outdoor environment, teachers' perceptions, research methods, learning for sustainability, policy impact, publishing research and outdoor activities.

Figure 1: I enjoyed the food in Broomlee Outdoor Education Centre- they kept in mind individual choices and preferences


Impact of outdoor environment- Matluba Khan, Aristea Kyrikou, Jamie Hamilton
Me and Jamie explored the impact of outdoor environment on children’s learning in completely two different contexts- Bangladesh and Scotland respectively applying totally different methodological approach. However, the interesting thing is the findings are the similar i.e. outdoor environment’s positive influence on children’s learning and also teachers’ positive attitude related to taking children’s to the outdoors. Whereas I looked into learning as an outcome of children’s exploration of the environment, relationship with peers, perceived physical activity and perceived motivation to learn in the outdoors, Jamie explored children’s memory, attention restoration, social interaction and physical activity as constituents of children’s cognition. In both research, under-achievers were found to be benefitted from the experience in the outdoors and most children preferred outdoor environment over classroom for their learning.
Aristea explored how schools can adapt the national curriculum through extending the learning to the schoolyard. Schoolyards, irrespective of urban or rural if contain elements (for example- gardens, aquatic features etc) that can enhance children’s learning experiences  Her research strengthens the ground that schoolyards should be designed to accommodate children’s learning of curriculum contents.
One important point that has been brought at the end of the discussion by David, how the teachers can be encouraged to take children to the outdoors considered the barriers related to this aspect. As teachers are the key players, measures must be taken to remove the barriers in other way to encourage the teachers to take the first move. Few research explores the relationship of the outdoor environment and teachers’ motivation however, my research provides evidence that outdoor environment positively influences teachers’ motivation and engaging them in the design of schoolyard might be the first step to encourage the teachers to take the children to the outdoors. This is also supported by  Carey's (2012) study where she compared three potential solutions- altering schoolyard, engaging with one teacher, teacher training program based on reach, time and cost and opted for the development of schoolyard.

Figure 2: I think it's me presenting :-)


Teachers’ perception- Shang Zhan, Louise Hawxwell, John Pierce
John investigates instructor’s role in Irish outdoor education centres and that re-establishes the fact that teachers play the key role in children’s education either being authoritative or giving the authority to the children to be creative, explore the unexplored and push the boundary.
People’s experiences in different culture and contexts are not the same, yet sometimes I get surprised how similar people’s perception about outdoor experiences can be in different climate, culture and context. Louise’s research on first year trainee teachers’ perception of outdoor teaching is quite similar to how teachers in Government Primary Schools perceive this. The perceived barriers related to time, cost and class management in UK primary schools are not always the real picture, as its found in my pilot study in a Scottish Primary School where the teachers once outside are more positive about children’s achieving multiple competences in single outdoor activity and my field research (may be in Jamie’s research too).
I am quite thrilled to find how outdoor education is supported by laws in Taiwanese Primary Schools. All these primary schools are beautifully designed providing so much affordances to the children for diverse activities and being in contact with nature.  The bottom-up educational reform gives teachers much authority in terms of what they are teaching and how they are doing that ( which is also very important for teachers’ motivation and that’s the thing which gives job satisfaction to the teachers as I found in (Sylvia, 1985)). I was interested to learn about more empirical research in Taiwan and what is the motivation behind this educational reform. More research in these contexts can give us useful knowledge on how policies can be influences in other contexts too. However, the design of school contexts and support from parents played an influential role on teachers’ practices which helped to extend outdoor learning from school landscape to the community.

Research Methods- John Telford, Robbie Nicole, Jamie Mcphie, Dave Clarke
Whereas Mcphie and Dave expressed their likeness and also rationale to explore post qualitative methods in the research of outdoor education, John’s presentation exposed the audience to the world of phenomenological research. Architects or environmental designers always have an inclination for phenomenological approach to find how their design influence or shape person’s everyday experiences. Combining phenomenology and ethnography, therefore, ethno-phenomenology can be an appropriate approach to explore children’s and adults’ experiences of learning/teaching outdoors or exploration of a designed outdoor environment.
Robbie Nicole’s workshop ‘You are Never Alone’ was an eye-opener for me in many ways. Its not long when I tried to name these sole experiences of mine- whether its in over-crowded Dhaka city or in Edinburgh. In these solo walks of mine, I was never alone, I explored those untouched subconscious thoughts of mine which I never dare to dig into. I always thought of writing those thoughts and emotions which I could not, however, now a days I think about my PhD research and I try to document in some way those thoughts. Using this into research can bring out those unexplored realm of human life and experiences which might not be investigated in any other way. This activity was followed by a very lively discussion session where various issues emerged related to outdoor education. Its really interesting how ‘we think our culture’s thoughts’ rather than our ‘own thoughts’. Robbie summarized the discussion in few points- 1) the complex, multi-layered and continuous nature of the reality 2) the relation of outdoor education with this complex nature and 3) the thought that there is something wrong with the planet.
The discussion left me overwhelmed about the complex nature of the reality, how ‘outdoor learning’ deeply rooted in the history of Indian sub-continent was in a way uprooted by the introduction of formal schooling system and constraining ‘learning’ inside the four walls of a classroom; though Rabindranath Tagore introduced that in Shantiniketon, how its perceived as an exceptional model and lessons are not learnt from this exemplary institution or even its not evaluated through research for betterment of the model; how my idea of bringing classroom back to the outdoors has been criticized as the import of a westernized model. Yet, there are more rooms for thought here as Jamie Mcphie mentioned about our perception of ‘nature’ and we also need to look into the model of ‘classroom’ which is made by men who are also parts of nature…..

Learning for sustainability- Rebekah Tauritz, David Somervell, Lewis Winks
Rebekah’s research explores teachers’ strategies to enhance children’s uncertainty competences. The study is really intriguing as this aspect of learning is completely new to me. I am very interested to learn the outcomes of the research in terms of dealing with issues like global warming or water conflicts and learning for sustainability. Lewis’s designed outdoor activity of re-presenting the participants’ perception of self, community and the world made some of us discover how similar we can be in our perceptions regardless of origin, culture and research field. However, I am looking forward to the evidence generated from this study on how residential outdoor learning experiences combining theory and practice can impact children’s learning for sustainability. David’s observation based on the experience of working in HEI for a long time regarding the potentials of outdoor education having footage in other disciplines and how it can promote interactions between and among disciplines for creating a sustainable environment was inspiring.

Figure 3: My perception of self, community and the world


Policy Impact- Natalie White, Juliet Robertson, Pete Higgins
It was great to meet Juliet again after two years who I first listened in a seminar organized by Parent Spark in Prestonfield Primary School. Juliet’s talk was motivating as she told the story of her journey in supporting outdoor education and  gave a broader idea about using the outdoors for teaching. Mentioning ‘The Book Approach’ seemed quite intriguing which emphasises the need of more empirical research producing evidence related to learning in the outdoors. Natalie’s speech focused on communication and change in the realm of outdoor education. The topic of how to motivate the teachers to take children to the outdoors was raised again as she emphasized on producing empirical evidence regarding children’s academic attainment that can positively influence teachers in outdoor teaching. Natalie focused on change based on Kurt Lewin’s model of change.
I was always trying to find the answer of the question ‘So What’ related to my study, however, this whole seminar provided me the rationale for conducting my study. Following Professor Pete Higgin’s account of working in outdoor education and also influencing policy, I asked for his valuable suggestion on how I can influence the policy making decisions in countries like Bangladesh. Pete also advised of research that can create empirical evidence and suggested sharing the findings of the research in medias which are more accessible to public (i.e. newspaper). This can be easily related to Simon Beame’s talk earlier that morning on a publishing strategy- publishing a easier version of the scientific article in another media- blog or newspaper.
It was great to learn how the outdoor education centre worked on the written evidence on OL which was submitted to Scottish Parliament and how the national implementation group worked for Vision 2030. I need to look into the report ‘Learning for Sustainability, One Planet Schools: Connecting Schools and Community’ to check on the developing countries which were included in the study and how these countries are connecting schools with community.
Pete Higgin’s speech reminded me the speech of Michael Russel in the Policy Stories program organized by Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities. I shared my research with Mike and asked for his suggestions on how I can influence the policy. Mike suggested conveying a simple single message to civil servants (however, I might have got confused here- who would I convey the message- to the politician himself?), but what if the civil servants are not sympathetic to the issue? Another thing that struck me is ‘to attack’- this actually can help PhD students at various stages- to ask the research question other way round. ‘Why Indoors?’ Instead of ‘Why Outdoors?’ can bring different dimension to the research.

Figure 4: Researcher to Policy makers (adapted from Pete Higgins at OEERS 2016)



Publishing research- Simon Beames
The first thing I need to do just after finishing the first draft is ‘to publish’. I will remember Simon’s advice on writing for different audiences. What if I publish the handbook I made in Bangla as an ebook? Seems like a good idea to me.

Outdoor Activities- Roger, Mark

Figure 5: On our way to the top of Pentland Hills

Orienteering, Solo walk in the woods, From self to society, Hill Walk, Exploring town
I cannot appreciate an Outdoor education seminar without outdoor activities. I really enjoyed the orienteering activities by Roger Scrutton. The interesting thing is I did it right the first time, but I was kind of lost in the second and third time. I enjoyed the hi ll walk to the fullest- everybody else did so I think. May be the first thing I need to do after coming back to Edinburgh is to buy a pair of hill walking  boots. But I am more comfortable in my trainers. I always try to capture the moments and  the beautiful landscape in my eyes and the eyes of the camera that slows me down during forest walks or hill walks. However, I always try to remember somethings I read in wanderlust – Its not about competition how fast I could climb or reach the destination, its about the experience throughout the journey. That might be applicable for our PhD journey, though we need to take account of the time, the most important thing of doing a PhD to me is to enjoy the whole process, experiment, explore and then reaching the destination would feel much more meaningful.

Figure 6: My poor trainers at the end of Outdoor Education Seminar!
References
Carey, L. A. (2012). Little classroom on the playground: increasing student academic achievement through integrating the playground into academics.

Sylvia, R. D. (1985). What Makes Ms. Johnson Teach? A Study of Teacher Motivation. Human Relations, 38(9), 841–856. http://doi.org/10.1177/001872678503800902