22 November 2017

What is built environment education all about?

By the Engaging Places team | 1 October 2014

Learning about the built environment is about learning more about all the buildings and places around us, whether they were created one year or a thousand years ago. 

Children and young people can learn about the built environment in their classroom, school and grounds, as well as the buildings, places and spaces nearby or in different parts of the country.

Every aspect of the built environment whether in a city, town, village or individual landmark building such as a castle - has its own story to tell and these can be turned into rich learning resources for all curriculum subjects. 

An image of two boys looking up inside a building and taking a photograph.
Bradfield school students take a tour of Sheffield city centre as part of a How Places Work visit © Steve Hall Photography

The most popular built environment activities are:

  • school visits to buildings and places
  • school-based projects using external learning providers, architects and designers
  • creative learning projects on school design processes.

But built environment education can also take the form of:

  • projects focusing on the relationship between people and places
  • using spaces to enhance learning
  • conducting a maths class in the school playground
  • students’ exploring their own communities and local built environments.

Built environment education cuts across themes in the national curriculum and is relevant to teaching and learning in subjects at all key stages. In teaching the revised key stage 3 curriculum, for example, exploring local opportunities in the built environment can help to deliver cross-curriculum dimensions.

What learning support is provided?
On the Engaging Places website, you can access a range of learning support and guidance from organisations and venues across England. Engaging Places will  point you towards high-quality resources that will help you use buildings and places as part of your teaching. The venues and organisations listed on the Engaging Places website provide:

  • guidance and support for site visits and experiences
  • curriculum and wider curricular teaching and learning resources
  • project-based work with built environment organisations, including formal learning programmes
  • web-based resources to support teaching of the national curriculum and the agenda of the Learning Outside the Classroom Council
  • resources for project work on school design.
An image of young people sitting on the floor among papers and pens.

Highbury Grove School students on a How Places Work visit of the Royal Opera House © Michele Turriani

Organisations that can support teaching and learning through places and spaces

Open-City is based in London. It is an independent organisation that champions the value of well-designed places and spaces in making a liveable and vibrant city, and the role everyone plays within it. Open-City has a range of education programmes that lead the way in learning about architecture and urban design as well as helping teachers to engage with the key issues that shape learning through the built environment. "We inspire young people to explore the architecture of our city, equipping them with creative skills that support learning in and out of the classroom."

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) was the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. CABE’s national education work aimed to inspire young people to learn about the built environment as well as helping them to understand the value of architecture and public space. On the CABE website archive you can find the teaching resources they produced.

promotes a greater understanding of the historic built environment by helping teachers and other educators use the historic environment as a teaching resource. Teachers can access resources, schemes of work and planning advice to support investigations and visits to historic sites.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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