Outdoor Learning

Developing New Skills Through Outdoor Learning at ESMS

In a world where screens and social media are ever present, outdoor learning is essential. Young people no longer have the same freedom to experience the outdoors as their parents and grandparents.  The way they interact and explore the world around them is heavily managed and protected, giving them less opportunity to make their own choices and learn through their own mistakes. This risk-averse approach makes it harder to develop resilience and independence. 

Outdoor learning helps to reverse this culture, giving children the opportunity to take on challenges and develop life skills. It connects children with the natural world around them, developing their curiosity and a sense of responsibility for their environment.

Our children relish the opportunities and thrive on the challenges that are presented to them. We firmly believe that the co-curricular and extracurricular programme we provide helps the children to become more confident and to develop skills, interests and friendships that last a lifetime.

ESMS has been running outdoor learning for 55 years.  It is an essential part of school life.


Our extensive programme includes forest kindergarten, forest school, residential camps in both our Junior and Senior schools, outdoor learning days and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Our trained staff give children the skills and confidence they need to face unfamiliar situations, assess risk and make good decisions. While children are busy having fun and problem solving, they are improving their physical health and mental wellbeing and developing essential life skills.

Find out more about Outdoor Learning programme and meet Dave Ogilvie, our Outdoor Learning Manager.



One of the highlights of their school careers takes place in S3 when boys and girls are whisked away for an eight day, unplugged adventure in the Scottish Highlands, known as Carbisdale. The pupils take part in a huge range of activities, including art, canoeing, environmental studies, orienteering, technology, mountain-biking, two-day expeditions, history, hillwalking and geography. They are challenged physically whilst also learning an enormous amount about themselves through individual initiative and working together to overcome challenges, all skills which are fundamental to success in their adult lives.

Benefits of our Outdoor Learning Programme

Our extensive outdoor learning programme starts from Nursery and helps children to: 

  • Appreciate and respect their natural environment
  • Develop a sense of physical and mental wellbeing
  • Expand their personal capacity for resilience, self-confidence and patience 
  • Develop personal and practical skills including problem solving, taking initiative and communication with peers
  • Explore meaningful decision making, consequence and risk
  • Respond proactively to challenges
  • Build relationships and create a deep sense of belonging within the school community 
  • Develop leadership skills
  • Master practical outdoor skills including hill and mountain walking, navigation and orienteering, camping, canoeing, biking, bushcraft and climbing

Find out more about Outdoor Learning in the Junior School 

Find out more about Outdoor Learning at The Mary Erskine School 

Find out more about Outdoor Learning at Stewart's Melville College