Plans have been announced for an outdoor learning hub at Musselburgh's Queen Margaret University (QMU).

The new facility would support "sustainable access" to the natural world for the university's staff, students, local community and teachers in Scotland.

Taking the form of an all-weather outdoor space, the hub would be located in the grounds of the university’s campus and be designed by landscape architects Wardell Armstrong.

As well as connecting people to each other and different natural habitats, it would be a place to support teachers and leaders in the evolving area of outdoor learning, with various courses leading to professional qualifications.

The facility would also encompass a digital element allowing learners from all over the country to connect with university academics and groups, and support learning in different outdoor environments.

Patrick Boxall, lecturer in initial teacher education at QMU, is leading the project.

Queen Margaret University’s lecturer in initial teacher education, Patrick Boxall, teaches Eilidh Fleming, BA (Hons) Education Studies (Primary), some woodlands skills.

Queen Margaret University’s lecturer in initial teacher education, Patrick Boxall, teaches Eilidh Fleming, BA (Hons) Education Studies (Primary), some woodlands skills.

He said: "During the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have re-connected with local outdoor places and have seen benefits for their mental and physical health, as well as appreciating the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Being outdoors gives us a multitude of rich and diverse experiences and learning opportunities, and we have been keen to embrace this in the university’s teaching programmes.

"As a society we need to connect with our environment and commit to educating children, adult learners and leaders about the importance of nature and our place within it."

The project would be delivered through collaboration with Architecture & Design Scotland (A&DS).

Danny Hunter, principal architect at A&DS, said: "The project will create a centre for local and national engagement in outdoor learning practice, leadership and professional development."

The university is keen to maximise use of the new hub and has plans for other academic specialisms, such as drama and performing arts, to benefit from the space and facilities.

Dr Olivia Sagan, head of division of psychology, sociology & education at QMU, said: "We owe it to our emerging generations to equip them with the knowledge they need to understand, enjoy and protect the natural world. But to do that, we need to equip the teaching profession with the skills to support young people in meaningful interactions with nature."

The landscape architecture team at Wardell Armstrong will be working closely with the charity Learning Through Landscapes (LTL) on the design of the outdoor learning hub. LTL is the national school grounds charity which champions outdoor learning and play for children.

Natalie Murray, from Wardell Armstrong, said: "As the benefits of outdoor learning rightly become increasingly recognised as an important part of the school curriculum, it’s fantastic to see this translating across to support young teachers in helping bring this knowledge and experience with them on their journey."

The project planning is already underway, with a consultation planned for September.