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Key initiatives and projects connecting young people with nature

Key initiatives

South Downs Curriculum

Ensuring school engagement is a critical element of our approach. We have worked to dovetail the local learning focus of Our South Downs with school assessment requirements, to create the South Downs Curriculum. This takes the statutory framework of the National Curriculum and includes links and tags to learning opportunities, resources, schemes of work and activities within the South Downs National Park. This approach covers all subject areas across the curriculum and provides local, real-life learning to brings it to life and develop students’ understanding of what makes the SDNP special.


To support the model developed through OSD a bespoke web-platform was created to host learning resources about the National Park. This has two components:

  • Learning Zone: Hosted on the main National Park website the Learning Zone is a portal for accessing all learning materials and resources about the South Downs National Park. It is an interactive site with links and widgits to bring it alive. Content comes from the SDNPA, outdoor learning providers and schools.
  • Interactive Learning Map: This resource provides a direct link for Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) providers operating within the SDNP to connect with potential audiences. Users are able to filter visit options according to their group and topic requirements and can select options with specific accessibility and facilities.

The annual Our South Downs teachers’ conference

This event, held around Easter each year, is the focal point for our outdoor learning engagement with schools and is a combination of key-note speakers, hands-on workshop sessions and a market-place showcasing outdoor learning providers in the National Park. Over 120 people attend each year including teachers, student teachers and outdoor learning providers.

Annual Provider network meetings

These are the mechanisms for providing ongoing CPD and support to Learning Outside the Classroom (LotC) providers across the National Park. They provide a fantastic platform for networking and shared training, specifically ensuring that providers within the National Park are in line with national initiatives and current thinking in this area. The network meetings have been held each autumn for the last three years with over 45 providers regularly attending each year.

The School Travel Grant Scheme

This scheme targets schools from the 20 per cent most deprived urban communities around the National Park and aims to reduce the main barrier to outdoor learning – the cost of transport to venues. The Travel Grant enables these schools to have subsidised coach travel to visit outdoor learning providers on the Learning Map. The £10k grant is always oversubscribed.

The John Muir Award in the South Downs National Park

A collaboration between the SDNPA and the John Muir Trust. The Award encourages participants to discover, explore, conserve and share a wild place.

South Downs National Park Geotour

The first in a UK National Park and the first place in England. This high-tech orienteering challenge consists of a collection of 30 caches across the South Downs that takes people to exciting places that they might not otherwise have found. By using local accommodation providers, cafes and other businesses, travelling sustainably, or taking part in conservation activities, participants can pick up bonus points. A very effective mechanism for sharing key messages and information about sites with a new and informal learning audience.

Thematic Project work

To supplement the Our South Downs approach several specific projects have been developed to support key theme areas. Examples of these projects include:

University of the Third Age (U3A) celebrates the South Downs

An 18-month programme of activity engaging members of 45 U3As across Sussex to learn about and be inspired by the SDNP.

South Downs Alphabet (Literacy)

Intergenerational project bringing together school children and older generation (through U3A) based on the literary work, A Sussex Alphabet, written by Eleanor Farjeon. It will inspire young people about the special qualities of the SDNP and encourage them to submit their own poems about the 21st century National Park to be published in a book, entitled a South Downs Alphabet.

Your Travel, Your Future (Tourism and sustainable travel)

Funded through the LSTF, this project is creating bespoke travel plans and learning packages linking schools from the surrounding urban settlements to the outdoor learning potential in the SDNP. It aims to engage secondary school students in visiting education providers in the SDNP using train travel, promoting long-term behaviour change alongside exam and curriculum required coursework.

Our South Downs Schools Art Exhibition (Art)

This is the second year of this highly successful project working with the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. This year the exhibition was held in two galleries, Towner and Worthing Art Gallery and Museum. Over 2000 young people participated annually.

Lessons of the Landscape (Farming)

Developed in conjunction with Plumpton College Children’s Rural Education centre, this project specifically aimed at reconnecting schools with their local farms. Targeted eight schools in East Sussex the project provided resources, pre-visit sessions and follow up work to leave a lasting legacy in the school.