Over the past three years, the John Madejski Academy has been supporting Dr Carol Fuller, Deputy Director of Research at the University of Reading, carry out a study into the effects of outdoor learning and exposure to outdoor education on students’ social, character and academic development.
Whilst many people agree that there are positive benefits, very little hard evidence exists and through working with Ufton Court, a small focus group of students, now in Year 11, have been making regular visits to engage in an outdoor learning programme. The Academy and University have also been tracking their academic progress data and regularly taking student voice feedback via interviews and questionnaires.
The focus group made their final visit to Ufton Court this week as the research period now draws to a close. Students have been challenged each visit to undertake more adventurous activities and develop their skills in leadership, team work and communication. This visit saw some of the most difficult activities yet with students building a medieval slingshot, designing and building a chair from resources found in a woodland and putting their team work skills to the test on the low rope challenge.
The initial research findings are highly encouraging and Dr Fuller will now conduct further analysis before writing up the study for publication in academic journals. The University would like to thank the Academy as well as Ufton Court for their support of this programme and also the group of students who have willingly engaged in all aspects of this research with energy and enthusiasm.
The University of Reading recently presented Internet pioneer Dr Vinton G Cerf with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science. Dr Cerf is widely known as one of the ‘fathers of the internet’, co-designing its protocols and architecture. Today he is Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, contributing to global policy development and the continued spread of the Internet.
Dr Cerf has received numerous awards including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, US National Medal of Technology, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the Charles Stark Draper award and Officer of the Legion d’Honneur. In 2012 President Obama appointed him to the National Science Board.
Dr Cerf is a hearing aid user and together with his wife, Sigrid Cerf, who has a cochlear implant, is a strong role-model for deaf people and innovative forms of communication. After the degree ceremony, Vinton and his wife Sigrid met Cathy Wardale, Programme Director of Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies. This unique course is offered nowhere else in the world and offers the chance to study theatre arts, education and deaf studies together, with a focus on Sign Theatre.
Dr Cerf then visited the IoE’s Learning Hub where he discovered a unique innovative learning tool – a talking pen pal book which allows children who speak different languages to learn together in one classroom.
He met Ken Carter, Founder and Executive Director of Decibels, a charitable company with the aim of promoting the arts-based education and training of disabled children and young people. Ken is also Director of the Deafax Research and Development Unit, of which Dr Cerf is Honorary President. Both charities are based at the University’s London Road Campus and work closely with the Institute of Education.
Dr Cerf said: “The University of Reading has a well-earned reputation in the academic world. The award of this degree honoris causa means a great deal to me, personally and professionally. I hope I can continue to earn this distinction in the future.”