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Special education students learn about the outdoors on trip to Brecon Beacons


Field trip enables special education students to learn more about the impact of being outdoors

Students and staff studying special education at the University of East London's Cass School of Education and Communities visited in early May the Hampshire and Sir John Cass Mountain Centre in the Brecon Beacons mountain range in South Wales.

The objective of the visit was to allow students to explore first-hand the positive impact that outdoor activities can have on skill development and physical and mental health and well-being. This included both themselves as future teachers and support workers, and the children and young people they will be working with. In particular, students were asked to think about the reasonable adjustments they may need to make for children and young people with a range of special educational needs and/or disabilities.  

The Brecon Beacons is a national park, and students were given the opportunity to engage with the landscape in a number of ways. They went caving in local caves; walked up mountains and through rivers and waterfalls; and spent a morning learning how to canoe on the local canal. During these physical challenges students learned the importance of team work and how to best support members of their groups. They also learned about the local geography and history and the impact of the physical environment.  

The work of the Hampshire and Sir John Cass Mountain Centre is inspired by the philosophy of the great outdoors educationalist Colin Mortlock, which takes into account the mental, physical and emotional aspects of being human. Through staged levels of outdoor adventures, students were all gently challenged, encouraged and supported to discover more about themselves, the outdoor environment and each other. 

Dr Janet Hoskin, a senior lecturer at UEL, said, "This was a fantastic opportunity for our undergraduate special education students, some of whom have never visited Wales before. Many of the students felt challenged out of their comfort zone and all have returned feeling refreshed and fulfilled. Learning how to engage with the outdoors and the positive impact this can have on your mental health is something they will take with them into their future careers."