Metasaga , Outdoor Learning and the Curriculum for Excellence

Here is the powerpoint from the regional events

Metasaga can be enjoyable, creative, challenging and adventurous and helps children young people and staff learn by experience and grow as confident and responsible citizens who value and appreciate the spectacular landscapes, natural heritage and culture of Scotland.


Metasaga allows

• all members of the learning community to participate in a range of progressive and creative outdoor learning experiences across a number of curriculum areas

• schools and centres to provide regular, frequent, enjoyable and challenging opportunities for all children and young people to learn outdoors throughout their school career and beyond

• teachers and educators to embed outdoor learning in the curriculum so that learning in the outdoor environment becomes a reality for all of the learning community.


Metasaga offers opportunities for all children and young people to enjoy first-hand

experience outdoors, whether within the school grounds, in urban green spaces, in Scotland’s countryside or in wilder environments. Metasaga helps develop the skills of enquiry, critical thinking and reflection necessary for our children and young people to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges of life in the 21st century. Metasaga connects children and young people with the natural world, with our built heritage and our culture and society, and encourages lifelong involvement and activity in Scotland’s outdoors.

Metasaga concentrates on the key values and principles of Curriculum for Excellence .It provides challenge, enjoyment, relevance, depth, development of the whole person and a hollistic approach to learning. Metasaga encourages staff and students to see each other in a different light, building positive relationships and improving self-awareness and understanding of others.
Metasaga will contribute to the wellbeing of our children and young people and enable them to become resilient, responsible citizens and successful lifelong learners, who value our landscape and culture and contribute effectively to our local and global society.

The place of Metasaga within Curriculum for Excellence

Our new Curriculum is a values based curriculum and Metasaga helps all the members of the Learning community to explore shared values and communicate what is important to them collectively and as individuals. Through Metasaga you can explore the traditional values of the local community building on tradition and culture.

Metasaga offers opportunities for personal and learning skills development in
areas such as communication, problem solving, information technology, team building, thinking skills and personal and professional reflection.

Metasaga can make significant contributions to literacy, health and
wellbeing, enterprise and leadership. In literacy there are opportunities to use different texts: the spoken word, questioning, traditional story telling and instructions. In health and wellbeing there are opportunities to become physically active in alternative ways. The deep reflective questions help to improve emotional wellbeing and mental health. Pupils in Orkney have teamed up with Visit Orkney to produce Metasagas for tourists as part of an education / business partnership.

Metasaga offers many opportunities for learners to deepen and contextualise their
understanding within curriculum areas, and for linking learning across the curriculum in different contexts and at all levels.

The participants determine the Metasaga experience and each Metasaga is different. This allows for a real sense of ownership of the learning that takes place. Once the Metasaga is completed it belongs to that group and they can then develop and build on that experience. The whole experience can be shared with the learning community and parents through the supporting wiki space.


Metasaga requires the normal planning of any outdoor activity. Due to the gentle nature of Metasaga it does not require the in-depth Risk Assessment of more demanding activity. Once you have the route of your Metasaga set up and arranged a few stops that provide significant metaphors for learning you can consider the Experiences and Outcomes covered.

Inclusion and equality

Metasaga is very inclusive and the more diverse the group is the richer the experience. Metasagas can be planned in such a way as to be accessible to all, taking in to account any access or support needs. Cultural and religious differences and similarities can be aired safely within the Metasaga to allow for a deeper understanding of each participant.

Learning and teaching outdoors

Metasaga can be the educational context , which encourages children and young people to make connections experientially, leading to deeper understanding within and between curriculum areas and meeting learner needs. Metasaga, used in a range of ways, will enrich the curriculum and make learning fun, meaningful
and relevant for children and young people Metasaga can take place in the school grounds, visiting the local area, exploring and engaging with the local community or as part of a residential experience.

There are associated health benefits to learning outdoors. Research indicates that the use of green space or ‘green exercise’ improves health. In particular, learning outdoors generally results in increased levels of physical activity. In addition, interacting with green space (walking, gardening, etc) improves emotional wellbeing and mental health.

The use of new technology as part of the planned approach to Metasaga will add value to the outcomes for children and young people. Experiences recorded digitally, for example, can be taken back to the classroom and used to reinforce and further expand on the experience itself. Complete Metasagas can be uploaded on to the dedicated wiki space. Glow is a resource, which can also support Metasaga, enabling educators, young people, children and parents to share experiences.

Working with partners

‘Curriculum for Excellence can best be delivered through partnership working. All establishments should work with partners and share a common understanding and language around skills development and application.’

Metasaga allows for rich partnership working. Experts in a variety of fields can contribute their knowledge to the Metasaga and allow for richer deeper metaphors and learning experiences to emerge. This can be a provider in the field of outdoor learning activities, environmental experts, heritage or historical groups and local storytellers.

An RSPB warden on one Metasaga used their knowledge of a Rookery to ask deep questions about community and communication. A botanist pointed out the symbiotic relationship of lichen and asked are you giving or taking from your organization. A rich tapestry of culture and tradition can be brought through local story and myth.

Parent and carer involvement

‘Parents provide a distinct perspective on learning and teaching which can help staff to improve learning for young people and also, in some cases, for the parents themselves . . . Wherever parents are starting from, it is important for teachers to engage with them to discover and share their views to help the parents to support their children’s learning.’

The support and contribution of parents and carers is very important. They are key partners in delivery and help to prepare children and young people for outdoor learning experiences. They may also provide rich outdoor learning out with educational settings, as well as assisting on outdoor visits. Because many Metasagas are set in the local environment parents can contribute with stories of their experiences in this area and can share their knowledge of the area. Each Metasaga is posted on the Internet, allowing parents and other family members the opportunity to see exactly what has been going on and have all the information for them to visit the Metasaga and complete it as a family group.

Metasaga & places to learn outdoors

Metasaga can take place in a range of settings – from the school grounds to historic grounds, from
local parks to national parks, from villages to cities, from residential experiences within Scotland to
overseas expeditions. Metasaga as a learning opportunity allows children and young people the chance to explore familiar and new places. Metasaga allows learners to share experiences and ideas from the local areas, which may not have been included at the planning stage.

  • A Metasaga can take place in school grounds, local buildings or within the school itself.
  • The wiki space allows Metasagas to be shared locally and nationally.
  • Metasaga can be set up for areas or places that a cluster of school utilize for excursions
  • Metasaga is ideal for use in places can be easily accessed on foot so that outdoor learning experiences can be sustainable and/or regular.
  • A Metasaga can be visited a number of times to add depth to learning?
  • • A Metasaga can be visited at different seasons to achieve different outcomes?

Residential experiences

Metasaga fits very well into a residential experience. You can tap in to local experts and a different environment and culture by setting up a Metasaga in the area visited. Preparation for this can take place on line or in a pre visit. Metasaga fits into a residential programme in a very flexible way. It can be the activity for after dinner or for a group who do not want or able to take part in am extreme outdoor pursuit. It is helpful to check the wiki space to see there is not an existing Metasaga in the area. A group going to white water raft in at Grandtully in Perthshire discovered a Metasaga was already set up around the area within walking distance of the rafting.

Recognising achievement and attainment

‘Assessment of the broad range of planned learning is required across the full range of contexts and settings in which the curriculum is experienced… They cover learning both within and outwith education establishments and classrooms.’
Metasaga provides fresh settings for children and young people to demonstrate what they know and can do and therefore for assessing their knowledge and skills. Assessment of learning in different outdoor contexts can provide opportunities to vary levels of challenge appropriate to individuals’ needs and abilities across a broad range of personal, interpersonal and practical skills. Diverse practical contexts and high-quality interactions, immediate and constructive feedback and time for reflection contribute to the breadth and depth of assessment processes. Within the curriculum, assessment is integral to effective learning and teaching.

Self-evaluation resource

You can use the Outdoor learning self evaluation resource provided to evaluate the learning experience involved in Metasaga

Metasaga and continuing professional development

Metasaga has been used in a number of Authorities as part of In service training and CPD. Pupils provided Metasagas for NQTs pushing their boundaries and asking deep questions. Metasaga has been used as a stand-alone course or as part of a one-day or residential experience for staff. Most staff have found it a very powerful experience. In Shetland it has been used across integrated children’s services with staff from education, social care and health.


Metasaga can be a powerful learning experience for staff and pupils. It is flexible and sustainable.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us” - Marcel Proust

Here is the handout used at the LTScotland regional Events

Kate Coutts is headteacher of Uyeasound Primary School in Unst Shetland. The Hmie report on the school is available here