The great outdoors – reimagining teaching and learning on campus
After the world started opening up again post-Covid, and our relationship with the outdoors had been reimagined, Dr Jenny Elliott started working with a small group of colleagues from within the School of Education to think about the potential for developing an outdoor learning and community space on Jubilee Campus.
It didn’t take long before more people from across the University of Nottingham became interested and involved, including Andy Nolan, Dale Coates and Jamie Dickinson from the Estates Teams, Lexi Earl and Peter Noy from the Future Food Beacon and academics from the schools of Geography, Business, Architecture as well as Education.
Networks and excitement quickly snowballed around the initial idea of an outdoor space on campus, and we held a meeting in summer 2022, which brought together all the different interested parties, including Chris Common, Nottingham City Council’s Leader of Nottingham Carbon Neutral 2028, local councillors, Jo Lees, from St Ann’s Allotments, Nottingham, teacher educators and a local headteacher.
In our summer meeting, we discovered that there were many intersecting strands arising out an Outdoor Learning and Community Space, to include:
- outdoor education
- urban agriculture
- civic partnerships
- sustainability agendas including: Nottingham Carbon Neutral 2028; Millennium Development Goals and the Faculty of Social Sciences Carbon Zero Hub
- food systems mapping
- food sovereignty
- food poverty
- student-led conservation/allotment/wildlife projects
"It’s really exciting to see this space acting as a site for re-imagining ‘campus’."
Funding from Midlands Innovation, allowed us to connect with Andrew Marsh from the University of Warwick and Sofia Kourmpetli from the University of Cranfield, both academics with interests in community urban agriculture projects, student-led growing on campus and allotments. The funding also allowed us to invest in an outdoor project and in Nottingham we’re developing an outdoor learning and community space on Jubilee Campus. It features low-impact seating, cooking and heating equipment under a tarpaulin shelter, where students, colleagues and community members can work together. First year BA Education students worked with an eco-artist to create ‘tree boggarts’ as a way to get to know each other, and we plan to pilot the site with various small groups of students this academic year. We are holding networking meetings in April and June 2023 to discuss urban agriculture training networks and potential future funding.
University of Nottingham projects
What has arisen for us at the University of Nottingham out of the summer meeting and conversations with Andrew Marsh and Sofia Kourmpetli are two distinct strands of work moving forward.
1. Promoting food security and tackling food poverty: Research Fellow Jo-anna Russon and Head of the School of Education Professor Volker Wedekind are leading on food systems mapping with stakeholders from Future Food Beacon and Nottingham City Council to better understand the food system and related skills and knowledge needs in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
2. Exploring outdoor learning and community involvement via a campus outdoor space: I am collaborating with students, colleagues and members of the community to think about and develop ideas via reading groups and practical use of the outdoor space relating to:
- outdoor education
- environmental education
- teaching for sustainability
- environmental leadership and management Masters student-led projects
- architecture student design projects
- artwork/conservation/food growing projects with local community groups
It’s really exciting to see this space acting as a site for re-imagining ‘campus’. Outdoors and indoors are starting to blur, there is potential for community and student groups to combine and share space together, for meaningful, sustainable relationships and connections with community stakeholders around carbon neutral agendas.
For more information or suggestions about potential developments and collaborations, please feel free to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org In the meantime, watch this space.
Jenny Elliott is an Associate Professor in the School of Education.