Dirty Teaching

A Beginner's Guide to Learning Outdoors

By: Juliet Robertson


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 182 x 222mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781781351079
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2014

Juliet Robertson offers tips and tricks to help any primary school teacher kick-start or further develop their outdoor practice.

One of the keys to a happy and creative classroom is getting out of it and this book will give you the confidence to do just that. Drawing on academic research, Juliet explains why learning outdoors is so beneficial and provides plenty of tips and activities to help you to integrate outdoor learning into your teaching practice, providing a broad range of engaging outdoor experiences for your students.

There is no need for expensive tools or complicated technologies: all you need is your coat and a passion for learning – oh, and you’d better bring the kids too!

Topics covered include: forest schools, learning outside the classroom, outdoor education, nature activities, caring for the environment, play in schools, investigative play, urban outdoor activities, problem solving, creative thinking and strategies for supporting curriculum objectives.

For all primary practitioners who want to shake up their usual classroom routine and discover the benefits of teaching outdoors.


  • Introduction
  • The Golden Principles of Teaching Outdoors
  • Before You Go Outside
  • The First Few Sessions
  • Thinking, Reflecting and Reviewing
  • Creating and Constructing
  • A Sense of Adventure
  • Exploring What’s Out There
  • Caring for Nature
  • What to do in Concrete Jungles
  • Keeping the Momentum Going
  • Nagging Doubts, Fears and Worries
  • Embedding Outdoor Learning
  • Cross Reference of Ideas to Subject Areas
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Dirty Teaching was a finalist in the Non-Fiction People’s Book Prize Winter 2014 collection.

Picture for author Juliet Robertson

Juliet Robertson

Juliet Robertson is an education consultant who specialises in outdoor learning. Before becoming a consultant Juliet was a head teacher at three schools, making her more than qualified to help others improve their practice. She also writes a popular education blog ' I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!' ' where she illustrates her ideas and enthusiasm for learning outdoors. @CreativeSTAR

Click here to listen in on Juliet's podcast with Pivotal Education: A Yearning for Outdoor Learning'.

Click here to listen to Juliet's podcast with Professional Learning International.

Click here to read Juliet Robertson’s blog.



  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Juliet Robertson's Dirty Teaching: A beginner's guide to learning outdoors. So many well thought out learning opportunities particularly timely in this post-lockdown back to school stage. For those venturing into outdoor learning, the ideas from this book will help to ensure those experiences can be engaging and meaningful learning opportunities.
  2. This is a very accessible book for both students and practitioners alike. 

    There is a range of useful considerations to help practitioners plan effective sessions and build up their own confidence to take out groups of children. Chapter 11 is especially helpful for those people who might find themselves involved in outdoor learning, even if this is out of their natural comfort zone. 

    There is a range of activities, which are broad and provides opportunities to use digital technology within the outdoor environment. 
  3. This is a fantastic book, not just for teachers either! In particular, the chapter on 'A Sense of Adventure' has many great ideas that we can't wait to try out in our Neverland Discovery Garden at Moat Brae when it opens in spring 2019. I particularly love the mini writing kits, adventure spots and retelling events suggestions. The best thing about this book is how accessible it is, allowing you to dip in and out for inspiration. A must have for anyone working with children or parents who are looking for ways to excite their children about nature and the outdoors.

  4. Just what I have been looking for - a book which explains outdoor learning and has practical tips and hints for trainee teachers. Written in easy-to-read language, this book will be one I refer students to again and again! Definitely recommended reading!

  5. I have always admired Juliet's work and her contagious passion for outdoor learning and her first book certainly does not disappoint. Her style is engaging and practical throughout.

    I also like the way she has not avoided or skirted around difficult or challenging topics such as 'But what if a child does not like going outside?' and 'I don't like bugs and bigger animals!'.

    Juliet is also pragmatic about the challenges teachers may face in beginning outdoor learning with their class and describes how to start it and how well this can work even with the -˜liveliest' of classes.

    It is a book you can either read from cover to cover or dip into. I will certainly be recommending this to my students on our undergraduate courses.

  6. Several months ago I had the wonderful surprise of receiving a parcel from the UK in the mail. To my delight it was a lovely book called 'Dirty Teaching'. This is a wonderful book. It is easy to use and is filled with lots of ideas that can easily be incorporated into many subject areas. Reading it has also led to new ideas sprouting in my own mind that I have then implemented. Every time I take someone else's class for an outdoor lesson both the students and teacher love it. I am hoping that this resource will inspire more teachers to take their classes outdoors and get dirty!
  7. Once I began to read this book, I could not put it down  and that for me is one sign of a really good book! The introduction all rings true, giving important rationale points and highlighting what teachers already have: 'the skills and competencies to teach outside as well as inside. ... any approach to learning and teaching usually works just as effectively outdoors as it does inside'. Importantly, as the author points out, 'teachers have to make an effort to learn how to teach outside on a frequent and regular basis we have been conditioned to think indoors'. This is not meant to be a textbook but rather a springboard for experimenting it is packed full of great, already trialled ideas that can be taken, refined/tweaked and improved  to make it suit the particular and specific needs of your class. So why bother about 'the outdoors'? Outdoor learning is an umbrella term that covers everything that happens outside the classroom adventurous activities, Environmental Education, team challenges, international expeditions or playground games. In the US, a whole movement exists to 'get outside' to engage kids that are not interested in learning in the normal/sit in the classroom methods, alongside growing numbers of children suffering from obesity and 'nature deficit disorder' the recognised condition where a child grows up with a complete disconnect from the natural world! More and more children in the United Kingdom now seem to have a similar disconnect and this book is an excellent first step to explain 'how to' get outside! The book itself is structured so that you can read from cover to cover or dip in and out as needed/time permits. The author intentionally did not include detailed lessons but rather ideas that can be tailored to each group or situation. Before you go Outside is all about 'being prepared' many experiences go wrong because of a lack of adequate forethought or planning. The First Few Sessions helps you to transition from indoors to the outdoors; Creating and Constructing includes concrete ideas for projects such as den building which may be new to some teachers; Exploring What's Out There highlights the things/ideas that might be 'under your feet or nose' but we could so easily miss treasure hunts, trails, maybe using mobile technology to enhance the experience; What To Do In Concrete Jungles deals with the challenge of a school without easy access to 'beautiful school grounds' and how to use a 'blank space' to create opportunities - think about what you have! The last section regarding Cross Reference of Ideas to Subject Areas, so how different subjects can be taught outdoors, is very useful for teachers, whether they see outdoor learning as a subject or a method. In response to the issue of 'there are already so many books about the outdoors why do we need another? ' My reply is another question: 'Why was this resource, which so very eloquently brings ideas together and " joins so many dots " not written earlier?' Highly recommended essential inspirational reading for every teacher!

  8. Dirty Teaching by Juliet Robertson is an amazing resource for anyone thinking about making the outdoors a part of their curriculum. Like the author, I am a huge advocate of keeping things simple when taking students outside and also giving them the opportunity to learn and discover on their own terms. She touches on parent concerns, schoolyard obstacles and fears and worries from students who may not be confident outside. The book is broken down into sections which will help you during preparation, planning what to do while outside with students, and reflecting and following up when the lesson is complete. The author offers a number of easy, simple and cost efficient ways to make outdoor learning a part of your everyday curriculum.

    This is an amazing resource for grades K-5 teachers. The book even includes examples of outdoor monthly calendars of easy things you can add to your schedule starting from the first day of school and a handy chart that helps to cross reference ideas to subject areas. After reading the book (and keeping it within reaching distance), any teacher should feel confident in starting the outdoor learning process for both themselves and their students.
  9. I thoroughly recommend this book to teachers and student teachers who are keen to start, or develop, 'outdoor learning' with their class. It provides advice about the practicalities involved, as well as a wide range of activities to use with children.  Whereas many books on outdoor learning are aimed at those teaching early years or KS1 children, this book is aimed at those working with children from 6-12, making is a particularly useful resource for KS2 teachers. It also includes a section on those wanting to extend their teaching outdoors but have a 'concrete jungle' as the environment on their doorstep.
  10. Up to now, there's been an increasingly alarming move towards taking the field out of fieldwork and replacing it with a computer screen. Let's be very clear on this - fieldwork cannot be replaced by any software. You cannot get the same feeling standing in an ecosystem as you can seeing a video (however good). There's an increasing body of research that suggests not only is the learning better, but is gets a better (social/psychological) connection with the environment. You can do conservation sitting watching a programme but you won't get conservationists! OK, point made. As one who has spent a large amount of time in the field, all of this just seems like a non-question, a no-brainer, but people are actually serious. I think a lot of it has to do with issues around perceived "safety" factors. We could counter by saying you can have accidents and issues in school just as well as in the field but some educators won't be told.

    At last we have help on hand. Many countries are working on, or have, a national curriculum. If you are very lucky, you might have a science or geography strand that expects fieldwork to take place from the very beginning. One example of this is in Australia where the national curriculum (actually, a national one modified by each state - and no, they don't get irony!) is starting to mandate fieldwork from the very beginning of school. This can be found partly in the science syllabus, but most strongly in the new Geography syllabus. So, rather than have fieldwork in secondary school, you now have it (or at least, soon will) starting when you join pre-primary/kindergarten. Admittedly, this is one of the only rays of sunshine in a very poor syllabus but it is starting to stir conversations in schools about how best to carry out fieldwork in the primary setting. Gone are the days of nature walks and BBC television with its glossy brochures about nature but now we have a way to reclaim at least some of this. However, the problem remains - what do we do? If you haven't been near a field in ages and have no idea of what to do, this text might just convince you to change your ways.

    First of all, it's aimed at the primary school teacher with 6-12 years old. Assuming no knowledge, it starts by getting the teacher to consider what might be different between learning indoors and outdoors. What might you see, feel, do, experience? How might your attitudes be changed (and how might your students)? Make the learning mean something and make it so it sticks in the mind! Consider that at this age, students are at their most receptive to ideas of taking care of the Earth, of stewardship and sustainability (fast becoming a curriculum staple, especially in Australia where it is one of three core curriculum principles across all ages and subjects). Secondly, it really does start at the beginning - chapter one looks at the 'golden principles' of outdoor teaching and learning. Use your time outside to develop student capacities and respect for the outdoors. An ideal way is to consider the sustainability of your fieldwork - "accidental" lessons like this can be among the most valuable. The next part of the lesson is to prepare. This is not just a question of safety, it's about getting all students and parents onside about the learning (and probably the senior staff!). This is a great idea. So many field exercises fail because people just go outside and don't really plan. This is not the perennial safety issue but the real reason (and value) for taking the time to explain to everyone what needs to be done and why. It's the chance to make a checklist, to ensure your fieldwork meshes with your teaching programme or unit of work. In a word, it's about being organised!

    So, you have your plan and have considered the requirements of the fieldwork and its place in your timetable. Now is the time to get the students outside. Rather than go right into complex fieldwork, the aim is to build up slowly. Start small - get students used to being outdoors. These are younger students with little experience, so start simple - get them to line up and see how this can be done effectively (you'll never have enough time out of a classroom, so these things matter). After that , gradually build up and increase complexity. Get them to collect leaves, or make a map, or something that connects them with the environment. Now they are outside and confident, get them to work in small groups or even on their own (within sight of others). Start to gather materials and map their spaces. The next stage is to look at the environment as a place of work (as indeed it was before the Industrial Revolution). If possible, build a den or build a musical instrument (logs of different lengths make a great, if somewhat heavy, xylophone !). Now you can start to move them out into some simple field experiments.

    Students will still be quite young and their sense of the world quite limited. So, keep closer to home, but use the outdoors for art, music, English etc. Make it seem like one of the natural places to learn. By now, you are an outdoors expert. You know what you are doing, and why. Time to step up! Younger students have a fine sense of natural justice and a real interest in the environment. Feed this interest with tasks that address the fundamentals behind sustainability. If you don't have a woodland or other large area nearby, you still have the towns and cities. Look at the buildings and the wildlife around them. Think micro-ecosystems and the possibilities of getting some useful data to use elsewhere in another lesson. There are always opportunities - just look around to see what catches the eye (or create journeys with QR codes. Don't just do this once, keep it regular.

    The final three chapters focus on the more general learning aspects which is more like a return to earlier work rather than fresh thoughts. There's section on nagging doubts, so you can check to see all is well and ideas on how to make this 'embedded' so that fieldwork becomes (as it should be, second nature). A final, brief chapter, asks the reader to see this work in a whole-school aspect.

    This is one of the best recent texts of outdoor education. Unlike other texts it starts at the practical and slowly works up to a regime of working outside the classroom. By assuming the reader has little or no experience, the author leads us through the process from the very beginning. All key stages are explained and the rationale behind them is given. Leaving aside it's great organisational value, this is simply a highly practical book. It's full of the wisdom you don't get in field guides but that you need to be successful. It's not a treatise on field experiments but a collection of a huge number of ideas (literally, they sprinkle the text with things to do!) that would actually work. I would recommend this to any primary school teacher concerned about the outdoors and it should be required reading in education courses. One of my rare must-buy books!

  11. The arrival of Juliet Robertson's first book was keenly anticipated by her many fans across the UK and beyond; Dirty Teaching does not disappoint.

    The book aims to be a critical friend to primary schools, providing them with the inspiration, ideas and support to enable a high quality curriculum to be delivered outdoors as well as in. It's ordered in a rational and progressive way, setting out the 'golden' principles and unique qualities of learning outdoors before moving on to the practicalities of taking a class outdoors and then exploring the potential of outdoors to support learning. A pithy conclusion makes a strong case for a whole school approach, which I wholly endorse.

    Useful 'checklists' at the end of each chapter offer a succinct summary of the chapter's content and provide key questions for readers to address in order to progress their own practice. They also help 'move' the book forward, giving a sense of evolution though the subject matter, which covers embracing risk, what's possible in 'concrete jungles', overcoming fears and making the most of the natural world - and much more.

    Learning can take place in any outdoor environment; even the most barren school grounds can be coaxed into enriching and consolidating children's learning. My own experience tells me that the barriers to greater use of outdoors are less to do with the quality of the environment or the weather (although these are of course powerful factors), but is in fact largely related to staff confidence and the school's cultural norms. Where outdoor learning and play are not valued by senior managers in the school, training in taking learning outdoors will be a rarity and this will inevitably affect the frequency with which students are able to go outdoors. This book will play a part in improving the confidence and competence of individual teachers, and will arm them with strong, persuasive arguments for adapting the culture of the school to include outdoor learning as an entitlement for all children.

    Juliet's writing style is engaging and lively, with longer passages in particular really drawing out her passion for outdoor learning and play. Having been both classroom teacher and Headteacher, Juliet's grasp of the realities of teaching and learning outdoors makes this book a genuinely helpful contribution to a once neglected area of educational publishing. And whilst there is now a plethora of publications about the benefits of outdoor learning and play, few authors can boast Juliet's combination of teaching experience and developing and delivering her own school grounds CPD across Scotland and beyond. Her influential and widely read blog, "I'm a teacher, get me outside here" is an authoritative source of theoretical and tried-and-tested information. In short, Juliet knows what she's talking about and her book should quickly become a key reference for student teachers.

    How to summarise this book...? Let's just say that I have two copies and one of them is already dog-eared and mud-spattered only a few months after it arrived. It's practical and useable and is also an accessible, enjoyable read. Publishers: please can the second edition come with wipe-clean covers?

  12. Juliet Robertson offers a guide for teachers to help overcome perceived barriers and develop
    confident outdoor practice. Juliet looks to support teachers who are beginning to appreciate
    the potential for learning outdoors by simply encouraging them to take their existing skills and enthusiasm outside. Subject chapters that include Golden Principles of Teaching Outdoors, Before You Go Outside, Caring for Nature, and Nagging Doubts, Fears and Worries, encourage readers to either dip in and out, or follow a clear cover to cover path. The accessibility of Dirty Teaching makes it of interest to all planning on (or currently) using the outdoors as an approach to learning. Youth workers, community educators, parents and carers as well as teachers will find value in it. That Juliet has written such a helpful and incisive guide will make all those who have been touched by the 'special nature of the outdoors' glad that it exists - regardless of whether we teach or not.

  13. This will make you want to turn your classroom inside out. Never again will the containment of 4 walls be good enough for your learners. This allows both new and experienced practitioners to look past the risk assessments and red tape, right to the heart of what learning outdoors means - an exceptionally rich collection of ideas, inspiration and advice.

  14. The book is fantastic, plenty of brilliant inspiration for getting outdoors, with practical activities and organisational tips to make the most of being outside, whatever the weather.

    Because it can cover all subject areas it is hard to pick a favourite, but I particularly enjoyed hidden acts of art. I think this book will benefit pupils and teachers, and hopefully parents and carers too as they discover new ways of exploring their school grounds and potentially, the community beyond the school gates!
  15. With the increasing focus in primary schools upon active learning and engagement to promote understanding and participation in the learning process, Juliet has produced a book full of practical ideas and tips My extensive experience of teaching physical education outside, reminded me of the need for good practice strategies for moving out, warming up to burn up excess energy, creating a gathering place, signals for stop, move etc. I particularly liked the sections on thinking, reflecting and reviewing, creating and constructing, caring for nature and exploring what's new out there. With so many parents / carers seeking "cheaper" activities to engage their children during school holidays this is an excellent book for parents, teachers, after school club teams, voluntary groups such as cubs and guides etc. I have picked up so many new ideas to enjoy learning through fun with my grandchildren on the beaches of Ceredigion and whilst walking the coastline of Wales.

  16. I have just had the privilege of seeing an advance copy of 'Dirty Teaching: A beginners guide to learning outside'. What a fantastic book. It's aimed at primary teachers who are wondering how to get 30 children outside with the minimum of fuss. And what to do when you get there!

    `Dirty Teachin`g is an exciting, comprehensive guide crammed full of ideas and inspiration. Worried about delivering geography at Key Stage 2 from September? `Dirty Teaching` offers a whole host of fun map skills games. Live in a 'concrete jungle'? You're lucky! Look at how to turn this to your advantage.

    `Dirty Teaching` is written for real teachers and draws on a wealth of experience and existing outdoor resources. Juliet Robertson has created something special here. I'll write a full review before the summer holidays but keep your eyes open. I expect to see Dirty Teaching in primary classrooms everywhere.
  17. We all know children need to get out more. They need more exercise, more real-life experiences, more opportunities to connect with the natural world. Their physical and mental health depend upon it, and so does their cognitive development (did your know that, in terms of common sense understanding of basic concepts, today's 11 year olds operate at the level of 8 or 9 year olds twenty years ago?). `Dirty Teaching`is a timely and powerful pedagogical text - inspiring, exciting, enlightening. It's also highly accessible and full of down-to-earth advice about taking teaching out into the real world. Every primary teacher should read it!

  18. Juliet Robertson's new book Dirty Teaching provides teachers who want to take their practice outdoors with strategies to minimise bureaucratic barriers, tactics to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor teaching, and countless cross-curricular activities that can be implemented with minimal resources. The pages are packed with creative ideas for active and engaging outdoor lessons that will help teachers bring the curriculum alive for their pupils.
  19. Dirty Teaching' provides so much more than practical outdoor learning ideas that can work in and beyond school grounds; it draws on Juliet's extensive UK and international experiences to encourage refection, evaluation and an informed and thoughtful approach to evolving one's practice.
    Juliet understands teachers, believes in their creative abilities to adapt learning to individual needs and appreciates that children behave differently in the outdoors. She also believes that deep learning draws on authentic, meaningful and relevant experiences...enabled though trusting relationships.
    The compelling way that Juliet leads us through; an overview of principles and practice; a host of wonderful activities; ideas for collaborative reflection and then tackles; concrete jungles; worries and fears; embedding outdoor learning and developing a whole school approach, shows that she fully appreciates the massive developmental continuum that exists in schools.
    'Dirty Teaching' is a beautiful and useful book that incorporates photo's, questions, helpful checklists and links to further reading and resources. The activity ideas are grouped as a number of themes that include; creating, construction, adventure, exploration and care. These are then helpfully cross-referenced to curriculum and topic areas, meaning that the book is as useful as a quick source of ideas as an enjoyable read for those who are committed to enabling enthralling long-term learning for their children!
    In 'Dirty Teaching', Juliet's personal philosophy shines through. She is positive, endlessly creative and, above all, inclusive in her approach. This book is certainly not just a book for the beginner, to whom it will be accessible, encouraging and informative, it will also be inspiring and stimulating to the experienced practitioner.

  20. A good practical common sense approach, and a way of breaking down activities to encourage all teachers to get outside and teach.
  21. Given all the Juliet Robertson has done through her outstanding blog and her development work, I should have expected her book to be outstanding and it is.

    Part manifesto for outdoor learning and part manual, she makes the case for outdoor learning and provides the advice, ideas and questions that allow teachers to deliver on it. I was convinced all over again of the value of learning everywhere, of the power of the outdoors and, with this book, I felt totally equipped to the advantage of that AND it is just a great book about learning with children.
  22. Once again the sound common sense that we have grown to expect from Juliet Robertson. 'Dirty Teaching' recognises that the most effective way to embed teaching and learning in the outdoors is not to create huge quantities of resources but to plant seeds so that teachers can grow their own ideas.

    The book reflects the current research which suggests that the real barriers to teaching outside are not weather, wind and wellies but confidence and competence.

    Easy to dip into for inspiration but also compelling to read as a narrative that engages and informs in equal measure.

    The book starts from the premise that teachers can teach, and want to do so to the very best of their ability for the benefit of their pupils.

    Underpinned by a relational philosophy but rooted in practical demonstration and experimentation Juliet takes us on a journey from understanding why the outdoors is so important to introducing and mainstreaming being outside into every day teaching practice without losing any sense of awe and wonder.

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