Out to Play with Hollybrook Academy – ASN Blog 3: Nature Connection

Written by Alice Donnelly

Welcome to the third in a series of three Drama Artist blogs exploring outdoor Sensory Storytelling (Blog 1), Play (Blog 2) and Nature Connection (Blog 3) in Additional Support Needs (ASN) settings, inspired by an Out to Play residency I led at Hollybrook Academy in Glasgow in autumn 2023. I hope the blogs can be useful to teachers and practitioners working with children and young people with Additional Support Needs, who are keen to give sensory-based creative outdoor learning and play a go!

This final blog in the series is all about nature connection. I’ll share why this is at the heart of all of Eco Drama’s work, and some of the ways in which I supported learners at Hollybrook Academy to feel connected to nature.

To raise a nature-bonded child is to raise a rebel, a dreamer, an innovator…someone who will walk their own verdant, winding path.

Nicolette Sowder

Over time humans have made extraordinary advancements; from the simple wheel to skyscrapers to rockets that can take us away from Earth. With all the progression that has been made in technology, it is easy to forget that we come from nature. The damage that has been done to our planet makes it vital for us to shift from an ‘ego system’, a human centric view of the environment, to an understanding that we are just as much a part of the ecosystem as any creature in the world, and that we have a role to play. Children and young people are often not given the same opportunities to connect with nature in the way that many adults did when they were young, so in this blog we will explore ways in which you can help pupils to feel connected to nature.

Explore the outdoor space

The playground is a fantastic space that can be used in many different ways. Eco Drama starts by asking ‘What is?’ – what is in the space already? Then we ask ‘What if?’ – how could we reimagine this space and transform it into something for ourselves. One activity you can do with your pupils is to map the playground and create a new world as shown by the map below.

However you could also create treasure hunts, bug hunts, obstacle courses, anything that will make the outdoors seem magical or extraordinary. During my time with the Pine Group at Hollybrook Academy, we had an outdoor patio space that felt quite disconnected from nature – with some creative adjustments we made it an exciting space to explore while developing skills and connecting to nature.


A lovely activity to find connection with nature is to close your eyes and listen for 5 natural sounds – the wind, dogs, birdsong, the rustle of leaves etc. This activity works even in more built-up areas and can provide evidence that nature is in fact all around us even if we can’t always see it with our eyes. Some pupils may not have the attention span for 5 so feel free to cut the number down if necessary.

No matter the weather

At Eco Drama we often refer to a quote used by Billy Connolly that there is ‘no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. Obviously safety comes first but we encourage you to take your pupils outdoors in all weathers! By teaching children and young people that there is nothing inherently bad about the weather we teach them resilience while fostering nature connection.

Art activities

At Hollybrook Academy, we used biodegradable clay to create faces on the trees and I then asked the pupils to think about what the tree faces might say if they could speak. It was a great activity that allowed the pupils to consider things from a different perspective and to dismantle the ‘ego system’ while doing so.

We also used drama to explore this – I was in-role as a woodcutter and the pupils were the trees who gave me quite a telling off! There are numerous activities that can use materials from the outdoors or that can be done outdoors to help pupils connect more with nature and we encourage you to give them a go.

Be natural

Humans evolved from nature and as such we are drawn to it. Although many would argue that kids these days only want their screens, studies have proven that time spent outdoors has wonderful benefits for health and wellbeing. Take any opportunity you can to take your pupils into a natural space and I’m sure you will see the benefits for yourselves.

We hope that this blog has given some insight into how you can foster nature connection for your children and young people.