Environmental education

Environmental education has a long heritage in Devon with the establishment of a Devon Education for Sustainability Working Group (DESWG) over 25 years ago. More recently this has evolved into the Network of Environmental Educators in Devon (NEED) which continues this work through a large and diverse network of practitioners including local government, schools, further and higher education institutions, NGOs and local communities. All are committed to developing environmental awareness, stewardship and learning for sustainability within the formal and informal education sectors.


We know that providing the opportunity to embrace and experience the natural world gives us a sense of belonging, improves health and encourages stewardship of the natural world. Education and learning providers have huge potential to support wildlife and create generations of nature lovers.

Children learning to light fires, work in the garden and playing in a stream NEED brings together a large and diverse network of practitioners including local government, schools, further and higher education institutions, NGOs and local communities. The group meets regularly at venues around the county (or virtually) to share good practice and work on joint projects. The group currently acts as a network for everyone involved in education and outdoor learning and seeks to provide a coherent and co-ordinated framework of support across Devon for helping all achieve environmental awareness and sustainability development work.

The NEED approach

NEED is committed to the principle of education being a transformative and socially critical process. It takes the leading role in Devon in advising local authorities and supporting teachers and others to recognise the importance of environmental education and sustainability as a mechanism for lifelong learning, school improvement and personal empowerment. This work is carried out through the Network and Steering Group.

If you would like to find out more about joining in and attending meetings, please get involved by emailing the Chair, Lucy Mottram.

Children pond dipping

The role of the Network

A platform to offer support, facilitate discussion and share information and best practice between practitioners involved in outdoor, environmental and sustainability education across Devon whilst offering an opportunity to receive information disseminated from the LNP board and industry specialists.

We are working to achieve our vision through the following aims:

  • Experience – Provide a lifetime of equitable access to outdoor learning for all
  • Connect – Support learning and experiences that connect people to their local environment
  • Care – Create generations of globally aware citizens that want to play their part in nature recovery.
  • Act – Developing an environmentally literate population who enact sustainable ecological and regenerative changes for a resilient future for Devon.

Minutes and meetings

NEED members in Devon

The next NEED meeting will be Thursday 10th March 2022, 10-12pm

Find out about Outdoor Learning experts near you

Environmental education for all ages

People in a meadow looking at the purple flowersAnyone can get outside and learn more about nature and sustainability in Devon. If you are interested in specific species like butterflies, bats or badgers; lichens, trees or wild flowers, there is a group to help you learn more. Learn from experience by volunteering with practical conservation tasks. Learn from the experts on a specialist course or help out and collect valuable data  with a citizen science project. The learn about Devon’s natural history page will help point learners of all ages and inclinations in the right direction.

School resources

Taking your pupils outside to learn might seem daunting but there are lots of resources and organisations to help ease the process and make curriculum links clearer. The resources for schools page highlights NEED members as well as useful national resources.

The evidence for outdoor learning

Two school children smiling at the camera covered in mud

A wealth of evidence exists on the benefits of taking learning outdoors. It can be useful for the reflective teacher / practitioner to develop what they do but also to persuade others and justify why it makes sense for children, young people and adults to make use of natural environments for learning. The evidence for outdoor learning page contains links to key studies and collections of research articles on the wide ranging benefits of Outdoor Learning.