Information: methods & approaches

Information on the theories, methods & approaches of playing and learning outdoors – from case studies to policies, examples of forms, documents & handouts, research and articles, and much more to support your theoretical explorations into the outdoors.

With your help the information section can grow – can you recommend sample policies, signpost articles or videos, share documents or resources? Please contribute so we can build the knowledge and good practice of all people working with groups outdoors. Contact us via

Earth Education: Permaculture for Kids

‘Sarah Smith, a geography teacher, describes the fun she has had since discovering Earth Education and explores its links with permaculture principles.’ Permaculture magazine, 29 May 2012

Children and their Environments, edited by Christopher Spencer & Mark Blades

Learning, Using and Designing Spaces
‘Examining theories of children’s perceptions of space and place, this book explores how these theories are applied to the world of children … places that children live in, explore and learn from … classrooms, playgrounds, homes and yards, towns, communities, countryside, natural environments, and the wider world. An international team of authors compares the experiences of children from different cultures and backgrounds.’

book cover for Children & Their Environments

Children and Nature : Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations

‘Scientific investigations and thought-provoking essays on children and nature… research from cognitive science, developmental psychology, ecology, education, environmental studies, evolutionary psychology, political science, primatology, psychiatry, and social psychology.’

Children And Nature Psychological, Sociocultural, And Evolutionary Investigations

Child led play

At Muddy Faces we feel it is vitally important to consider a learner-led approach when working with children outdoors. In the introduction to our Outdoor Play section Jan White, internationally-recognised consultant and speaker for outdoor provision in the early years, explains more.

Read it here.

ACEWild Evaluation Toolkit

It can be difficult measuring the impact of learning & play outdoors –  this site offers some useful tools for measuring work in an outdoor learning situation. 

Arts Council Self Evaluation toolkit

‘Self evaluation is a vital first step towards improving your work. It can also help with self confidence and resilience. We’ve developed a Self Evaluation toolkit for people, companies and partnerships in the arts, cultural and creative sectors.

The toolkit has 24 questions with links to help you improve your work. When you are finished, you can generate a report on one evaluation or comparing several.’


A free resource to help you discover and share best practice in cultural marketing. The website features evaluation case studies, toolkits and research articles, including DIY Evaluation & Research.

Funding Central evaluation resources

Some useful generic “what is evaluation and why is it important” resources. Subscribe for free access for organisations with an annual income below £100,000. Subscription also gives you access to ‘search our database of thousands of grants, contracts and loan finance funding opportunities, from local, national and international sources.’

Good from Woods research toolkit

‘Good from Woods is a community of researchers exploring and reporting on the health and wellbeing outcomes of spending time in the woods. The toolkit is designed to help you do rigorous research into whether your woodland activity has an impact on the health and wellbeing of participants.’

A Guide to Evaluating Community Arts and Community Wellbeing

‘A ‘how to’ guide for community arts practitioners to assist them to evaluate the impacts of their community arts projects. Simple, straightforward and ready to use. It separates the evaluation into key stages and each stage includes a worksheet which guides the user through key decisions; asks trigger questions; highlights the issues users are likely to encounter and provides a checklist … also includes evaluation tools including surveys, worksheets and timelines for each stage of an evaluation. These can be used as they are, or adapted according to the needs of each project.’ From Creative Victoria (Aus).

Learning Away Evaluation Toolkit

‘Designed to help those responsible for planning or leading residentials in schools evaluate the experience to understand the impact and what could be improved.’ Covers: why is evaluation useful – introduction – designing your evaluation – collecting your data – using your evaluation evidence – resource library. From Learning Away.

Learning with Nature – Embedding Outdoor Practice, by Claire Warden

Outdoor practice and how children can learn and develop in natural environments. Contains a self-evaluation toolkit, examples of good practice and a chapter on assessment & planning to help ensure quality of provision. Available from Muddy Faces.

Learning with Nature book cover

Social Value UK: resources

“Find what you need to help you measure and maximise your social value”. Guides, tools, case studies and more, explaining the concept of social value, and how to measure your project’s impact.

UKES – the UK Evaluation Society

‘Exists to promote and improve the theory, practice, understanding and utilisation of evaluation and its contribution to public knowledge and to promote cross-sector and cross-disciplinary dialogue and debate.’

Forest School

We love Forest School so much we have a whole page dedicated to it!

Go to our Forest School page

with sections on:

What is…?
Key organisations
Training & qualifications
Articles & news
Blogs & websites
Reports & research
Why woods or forests?

John Muir Award

A free-to-use environmental award scheme which aims to help people connect with nature and enjoy and care for wild places.  The award is open to people of all backgrounds and is non-competitive and accessible.

The John Muir Award is used to help promote personal development, a sense of responsibility towards the natural world, and to recognise the achievements of individuals and groups taking part in outdoor experiences.

You do not have to be trained to run the John Muir Award, but training is organised periodically at locations around the UK. There are also information and resources available online, to help leaders find out more about the ethos of the award and the practicalities of delivering it.

More information on the John Muir Award training pages plus case studiesresource guides and how to get involved.


Our methods & approaches links page signposts you to the main national bodies, key organisations, initiatives and websites using a variety of methods and approaches in their work, play & learning outdoors.

Have a browse – there are tons of links to loads of interesting, important & inspiring organisations!

Sections include:

Educational approaches – alternatives
Educational approaches – mainstream
Forest education approaches
Outdoor & environmental education
Uniformed & formal
Youth groups

BEN publications & resources

BEN (Black Environment Network) works to enable full ethnic participation in the built and natural environment. There are dozens of key articles and papers on the website, addressing various aspects of access to the environment for black and minority ethnic groups, all available to download for free. Subject areas include:

  • Ethnic Environmental Participation
  • BEN Green Space Focus Group Reports
  • People and Historic Places
  • Engaging Ethnic Communities in Natural and Built Heritage
  • Ethnic Communities and Green Spaces
  • Good Practice Case Studies

Outdoor Education Research A-Z

Massive archive of links to hundreds of pieces of ‘research in the fields of Adventure Education, Outdoor Education, Outdoor Learning, Experiential Education or Friluftsliv’, including ‘provocative writing’, literature reviews, articles, reports & dissertations, journals and discussion lists, created by Dr Roger Greenaway.

Outdoor Experiences for Young Children
ERIC Digest.

‘Considers the rationale for outdoor experience among young children and the reasons for its decline in popularity. It also presents arguments for enhancing school and center playspaces and provides guidelines for developmentally appropriate outdoor design.’ With full and thorough research references. ERIC Digests (short reports on education topics), December 2000.

Other relevant ERIC Digests:

Outdoor Education: Definition and Philosophy, 1986
Outdoor Education and the Development of Civic Responsibility, 1999
Outdoor Education and Environmental Responsibility, 1997
Outdoor Education and Troubled Youth, 1995
Outdoor, Experiential, and Environmental Education: Converging or Diverging Approaches? c2002
Establishing an Outdoor Education Organization, 1986
Place-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Outdoor and Environmental Education Approaches, 2000
Recommended Competencies for Outdoor Educators, 1996
Teaching Environmental Education Using Out-of-School Settings and Mass Media
Cognitive Learning in the Environment: Elementary Students, 10987


These 3 short films, all made by Siren Films, creators of educational videos for early years professionals, offer an insight into Muddy Faces founder Liz Edwards, and her child-led approach to learning.

For more on the child-led approach see Jan White’s introduction to our outdoor play information page.

Siren Films has a library of hundreds of inspiring and thought-provoking free film clips – great for those training in the Early Years.

Film 1: Liz and her oldest son take a walk down the local high street and we observe their adventures and conversations along the way.

In film 2 we see how important mud is in the family. The little boy at the end sticking his finger in a muddy puddle is Liz’s son, of course! (this trailer is 1 min 37 secs, and free to watch)

Finally the jolly laughing fellow right at the start of this film is Liz’s younger son – outdoors right from the start! (this trailer is 1 min 13 secs, and free to watch)