Natural Connections

Natural Connections is an outdoor learning programme developed by the Countryside section of Community Services, Fife Council. It is designed to promote learning and achievement in the outdoors.

Natural Connections is based on the belief that the best outdoor learning combines adventure skills, personal and social development and learning about the environment. Other important aspects of outdoor learning are the benefits to health, gaining a better understanding of our rights and responsibilities and learning to understand and deal with risk.

The programme is designed to offer this balance. Natural Connections uses enjoyable and challenging outdoor experiences to progressively develop skills and understanding. Progression through the 3 levels of Natural Connections allows people to specialise and focus on areas that particularly interest them.

We believe that the best outdoor learning combines finding out about ourselves, other people and the natural world by taking part in enjoyable and challenging outdoor experiences. It should help us in our ordinary lives and connect us to the world around us.

Taking part in Natural Connections connects us to ourselves, each other, the natural world and our own communities.

Natural Connections offers this broad and balanced approach to outdoor learning through six elements:

  • Discovering nature
  • Working together
  • Adventure skills
  • Finding your way
  • Journeying
  • Helping the environment


Natural Connections has several levels of award and although each has a firm structure (number of elements and number of hours) the way in which you choose to design the programme is very flexible. You should select a level that is appropriate for your group.


  • The new Natural Connections Foundations programme is aimed at Primary 1-3 and builds on the Forest Kindergarten experiences encouraging regular opportunities to learn outdoors.
  • Participate in 4 elements for at least 5 hours per element.
  • Time commitment at least 20 hours plus time to produce a record of experiences.
  • A journey of 2-3 hours is required depending on the age.

Level 1

  • Usually best suited to children in Primary 4-7.
  • Participate in activities for the six elements for at least five hours per element.
  • Total time commitment at least 30 hours plus time to produce a permanent record of all your experiences.
  • A full day is required for the journeying element.

Level 2

  • Best suited to P6- S2, transition/secondary education.
  • Participate in activities for the six elements for at least 10 hours per element.
  • Total time commitment at least 60 hours plus time to produce a permanent record of all your experiences.
  • Extra time for planning activities for helping the environment and journeying.

The journey is two days with an overnight stay, camoing or bothy, or residental.

Level 3

This level has three elements - adventure skills, helping the environment and journeying.

You will spend the same amount of total time as Level 2- but twice as much for each element- 20 hours. This allows you to focus and specialise on activities that interest you. By now you should be working together and finding your way naturally and will be improving your skills in planning, reviewing and recording.

The 20 hour journey will involve two overnight stays camping, bothying or other residential.

You could gain higher awards from the John Muir Award, National Navigation Award Scheme or the British Canoe Union. You could take part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

Natural Connections – a Flexible Award

It is recognised that many groups have special considerations which means that the best level for them does not fit this general guidance. Some Primary groups will achieve L1 quite quickly and seek to progress to L2, some older groups may find L1 challenging enough and some community groups may well have the skills and experience to progress directly to L3.

Natural Connections Elements

Natural Connections balances six different outdoor experiences

Understanding the natural world

Finding out about the landscape, plants, birds, animals, insects, fish, trees. Seeing
how nature works and how humans can affect it. Exploring how we feel about the
natural world and what place it has in our lives.

Activities such as:

  • Woodland, Freshwater or Coastal Studies
  • Food chains and Food webs
  • Water Cycle
  • An ‘Earth Walk’
  • Migration
  • Comparing Landscapes/Habitats

Teamwork and group activities

Looking at how to do things together, understanding what other people need,
learning to share ideas and make decisions together. Working as a team, solving
problems, learning about give and take.

Activities such as:

  • Team Building Exercises
  • Problem Solving Courses
  • Team Challenge
  • Trust Games

Taking part in outdoor adventure activities

Developing new skills and working to improve them, challenging ourselves, finding
out what we can do, getting new perspectives and feeling the thrill of success.

Activities such as:

  • Rock Climbing
  • Gorge Walking
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Hill walking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Sailing
  • Skiing

Learning to navigate and use maps

Understanding how we find our way around our world. Learning to interpret maps
and directions, identifying features that help us know where we are and where we
are going.

Activities such as:

  • Memory Mapping
  • Trail Quests
  • Map Work and Compass Skills
  • Orienteering

Travelling under your own power

Making our way together through the natural world, reaching the parts that planes,
trains and cars can’t reach. Sharing the ups and downs, the sunshine and the

Activities such as:

  • Group Hill Walk
  • Canoe Trip
  • Bike Trip
  • Sea Kayak Trip
  • Or a combination of these

Practical work to help the environment

Acting to protect the environment by carrying out a practical conservation project,
an environmental survey or work to help an endangered biodiversity species.

Activities such as:

  • Local Conservation Projects
  • Footpath Conservation
  • Wildlife Gardening
  • Take part in national surveys
  • Clean ups

Looking back at your Natural Connections experiences, at what you’ve done, showing us what you felt and thought, making links between all the elements and between Natural Connection and your life.

You could make:

  • Scrapbook
  • Video
  • Photo Album
  • Diary

Planning your Natural Connections programme