Outdoor learning trailblazer, Juliet Robertson, awarded honorary degree by Queen Ƶt University

By Press Office

Juliet Robertson, one of Scotland’s leading educators specialising in outdoor learning and play, has been awarded an honorary degree by Queen Ƶt University (Ƶ), Edinburgh in a special ceremony at the University’s new outdoor learning hub.

Juliet, who is known throughout the education profession as a trailblazer for outdoor learning and play for children and young people, was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education in recognition of her significant contribution to learning.

The recently opened Outdoor Learning Hub and Discovery Trail, at which the honorary award was conferred in a special ceremony, is located in the grounds of the University. An oration celebrating Juliet’s achievements, along with a video recorded response from her, was delivered at one of Ƶ’s graduation ceremonies held in the Usher Hall on 2nd July, and so heard by hundreds of new graduates, including future teachers.

Juliet’s passion for nature has been lifelong. Throughout her career, she has worked to ensure that all children, and the adults who work with them, have positive and enjoyable outdoor experiences, regardless of their location. Her work enables schools, play organisations, and early years settings to offer quality outdoor learning and play opportunities – which have now become an essential part of the Scottish education curriculum.

As a primary school teacher, Juliet consistently integrated outdoor activities into her teaching, taking children on weekly visits to local woods and spearheading school grounds development projects. Her leadership as head teacher from 1998 to 2007 saw her managing three different schools, significantly influencing the educational experiences of hundreds of young people.

In 2007, Juliet founded Creative Star, an independent company dedicated to providing training for educators and diverse outdoor learning opportunities for children across Scotland and beyond. Her influential books, ‘Dirty Teaching’ and ‘Messy Maths,’ have become essential resources for educators, and are core texts in undergraduate courses at Ƶ.

Juliet’s pioneering efforts include the development of the Forest Kindergarten qualification, a benchmark in outdoor learning provision for Early Years in Scotland. Her expertise has significantly shaped national outdoor education initiatives, including advising government officials and ministers to promote outdoor learning, even in urban environments. Notably, she played a pivotal role in the creation of the ‘Loose Parts Play’ toolkit, a cornerstone of good practice in outdoor education.

Juliet Roberts sitting on a wooden bench in her graduation gown and hat

Her influence extends beyond Scotland and the UK, having worked in Canada, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Australia and Hong Kong. In 2004, she won a Developing Effective International Education research award for her report into Sustainable Development Education in the Czech Republic. And in 2008, she was the recipient of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to study technologies outdoors. Juliet provided the initial training for the first outdoor nurseries in Lithuania, and worked with universities and schools in Spain and Belgium.

Sir Paul Grice, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen Ƶt University, said: "Throughout her distinguished career, Juliet Robertson has demonstrated an unwavering passion for nature and education. Her inspirational vision and ideas have significantly impacted the higher education sector, with the concept of outdoor learning expected to continue growing in significance.

“Throughout Scotland, wherever there are educators working in nature with children, the principles and methodologies championed by Juliet Robertson are being implemented, leaving a lasting legacy that will benefit future generations.”

Sir Paul concluded:

"We were delighted to recognise Juliet’s accomplishments with an honorary degree, while also enjoying the outdoors and showcasing our newly opened Outdoor Learning Hub, which is now part of our campus grounds – essentially the Hub is a physical manifestation of Ƶ’s commitment to the important concept of outdoor learning. As a facility for all, it will support activity, wellbeing, and teaching locally, as well as upskilling teachers across the UK in outdoor learning. Juliet’s work has been an important influence on Ƶ’s drive to incorporate outdoor learning, not only in our teacher education courses, but across our wider course portfolio, so even more people can benefit from learning in nature."

Notes to Editor

Juliet is one of Ƶ’s four honorary award recipients this year. On the 1st July, Queen Ƶt University conferred an honorary degree on Sally Gray, television presenter, media trainer, business leader, charity volunteer, in recognition of her significant contribution to culture and the creative arts. On the 2nd July, Queen Ƶt University conferred honorary degrees on Dr James Robson MBE, Scottish Rugby Chief Medical Officer, and Professor Alex McMahon, former Chief Nursing Officer with the NHS, for their significant contribution to health and public service.

For further media information contact Emma Reekie, Media Relations and Content Officer, Queen Ƶt University, Edinburgh, E: ereekie@qmu.ac.uk; copy to: pressoffice@qmu.ac.uk

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