Farm Visits: Interdisciplinary outdoor learning for Primary School Pupils and Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


There is concern around children’s lack of knowledge and understanding of food sources and production, and more broadly around their apparent disconnection from nature. Spending time in the outdoors has been shown to yield a range of benefits, although the mechanisms underpinning these are not well understood. Studies have suggested, however, that there has been a decline in time spent outdoors by children. The introduction of the ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ guidelines in Scotland was heralded as an opportunity to address this decline. Although the guidelines advocate the use of outdoor environments, little research has been conducted, and little guidance is available, on how teachers can and do use outdoor learning in relation to the guidelines, particularly beyond ‘adventure’ activities. Farms are utilised as an educational resource around the world. This research explored the use of educational farm visits, as an example of outdoor learning, in the context of Curriculum for Excellence. A qualitatively driven, mixed methods study, comprising survey and case study methodologies, was undertaken. A questionnaire for teachers informed subsequent interviews with teachers and farmers, and ‘group discussions’ with primary school pupils. The study found that teachers can link farm visits and associated topics with the Curriculum for Excellence guidelines in a range of ways, covering all curriculum areas. There was a tendency however for farm visits to be associated with food and farming topics at Primary 2-3 (age 6-7), rather than used more widely. Issues to consider in the planning and conduct of farm visits were identified, and barriers and motivations for teachers, and for farmers volunteering to host visits, were explored. As well as practical examples of the use of farm visiting, this research offers a perspective on some of the theoretical literature which seeks to explain the benefits of spending time outdoors. Furthermore, five main recommendations for farm visiting in the context of Curriculum for Excellence are given. These relate to the type of visit appropriate to different age groups, opportunities for teachers to become more familiar with what farms visits can offer, and raising awareness of the organisations and networks which can support volunteer farmers to host visits.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
  • Wood, Bethan, Supervisor, External person
  • Rinaldi, Carlo, Supervisor, External person
  • Roberts, Dave, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date24 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2016


  • food production
  • primary school pupils
  • farms
  • outdoor learning
  • Curriculum for Excellence
  • Scottish education

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