Letting Children Climb Trees: Primary School Outdoor Education

Miss Rachel Mcmurtrie1

1St Peter Chanel Primary School

Outdoor Education in a Primary School can be more than just camp.  The main idea of this presentation is to show that you can let children play outdoors during school time and that it is beneficial to their learning.  The benefits include:

-development of Social Emotional Learning competencies

-student well-being

-understanding how to manage risks

-increased physical activity

-building connections to local communities

-increased knowledge and connection to local environments

-social skills

-Literacy skill development through imaginative play

You will hear about how a school has developed an Outdoor Education program that includes a Prep – 6 Outdoor Experience sequence (camps) and the inclusion of Nature Play in local parks as part of the school’s curriculum.  The Nature Play program involves students leaving the school ground and spending time in a natural space self-directing their learning by climbing trees, building with sticks, creating imaginative games and much more.

This presentation will include ways that you can get an Outdoor Education Program started in your local community.  Key areas included will be:

-How to engage teachers, students, parents and local community representatives to the program.

-What the students are learning during Nature Play sessions including teamwork, social skills and risk assessment.

-What the students do during Nature Play sessions including climbing trees, building with sticks and investigating bugs.

-How teachers have included Nature Play sessions as part of the curriculum.

-The benefits of Nature Play from the perspectives of teachers, parents, students and members of the local council.


Rachel McMurtrie is a primary school teacher and Outdoor Education Leader at a school in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
Rachel grew up on a farm in central west NSW so has always engaged in the outdoors and all it has to offer. She completed a Bachelor of Education: Outdoor Education at Victoria University before starting her career in primary schools.
She has developed 2 new Outdoor Education programs at her current school and co-presented a workshop at the 2017 STEM in the Outdoors conference at the Melbourne Museum with Outdoors Victoria.

About the Association

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA) was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

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