January Term: Outdoor Education in Scotland


Trinity students received hands on experience with specific activities meant to encourage conversation, extension of understanding and problem solving skills in children.

Feb. 3, 2014

Last week, a group of Trinity students returned from a January Term trip to Scotland led by Sue Houglum, Professor and Chair of Early Childhood Education.

The purpose of the trip was to explore the methodology of learning for childcare in a natural setting, where the children are outside 80% of the time. Trinity students received hands on experience with specific activities meant to encourage conversation, extension of understanding and problem solving skills in children.

Spending time in Edinburgh, Crieff, Inverness, Sterling and Rosslyn, the students were immersed in both the theoretical and practical aspects of a nature school education. They received three days of training with Claire Warden, who leads the European effort in the nature school movement and has a reputation for her pioneering work in education. Warden gave a lecture at Trinity last year.

“Our study offered us many examples for enhancing Trinity’s urban nature school. We are developing a set of practices that will get even our infants outside for much of the day,” Houglum said.

The trip to Scotland was one of the opportunities this January as part of Trinity’s experiential and immersive January Term program, which offers students the chance to travel and study together accompanied by a professor, immersing themselves in hands on learning. This is Houglum’s second trip to Scotland, and as hoped, the students gained amazing insight into the urban nature school approach.

Many of the concepts studied and learned in Scotland will enhance the Acorn Learning Center, Trinity’s urban nature preschool supervised by Houglum and run by students in the Early Childhood Education department.

The students who traveled with Houglum loved every minute of their experience.

“This trip has absolutely turned my world upside down in indescribable ways. I am so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to come to Scotland and that he has shown me so much and revealed more about my passions,” said Katharine Coleman, a sophomore majoring in psychology. 

Houglum agrees.

“It was a great trip and a great learning experience for all of us,” Houglum said.

Click here to learn more about January Term at Trinity.