Investigate Environmental Quality

What are the different factors that might affect what nature we find on a school site? How can we record them so that we can consider them when making decisions about the best ways to enhance school grounds for people and for nature? In this activity educators and young people can work together to build up knowledge about their education site using digital technology, as well as developing key skills of data collection and observation.

This survey is based on one published by the Field Studies Council.

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This activity works well in combination with activities in Start Planning for Nature and alongside Investigate Weather and Microclimates

Identifying opportunities

~ 1 hour


What you need

Key Stage 1 and 2 

  • Teacher-produced verbal or written simple scoring system, based on the principles outlined in the app

Key Stage 3 and 4

  • Teacher – smartphone or tablet 
  • Students – optional smartphone or tablet
Curriculum Links
  • National Curriculum KS1-3 Geography 
  • GCSE Geography

Outdoors with indoor follow up

Guidance for Key Stages

The Field Studies Council defines an environmental quality survey as one that uses an observer’s judgements to assess environmental quality against a range of indicators.

Using a simple app based tool learners of different ages can be supported to collect and interpret the following information about the environmental quality in different parts of the school site (compulsory fields are marked with *):

  • Location (as a point on a map)*
  • Location name or description (e.g. On the corner of the playground next to the science block)
  • Date and time of recording*
  • Environmental quality characteristics on four broad themes; open space & gardens, buildings, traffic and general quality*
  • Notes
  • Total environmental quality score (this will be calculated automatically)*

There are questions in the survey referring to private and public spaces. Pupils should consider private spaces to be those that are owned by individuals or organisations. They should consider public spaces to be those that are owned by the government, local authority or other body, which are designated as spaces for public use. 

Key Stage 1 and 2

For learners at this age we suggest that you try the app out yourself and use the experience to support explaining the concept of environmental quality in a way that will make sense to your pupils in the context of your school site. 

You can develop your own simple scoring system to help pupils make straightforward assessments about places they like and do not like on the school grounds – and guide them to assess one of each. The exercise for KS1 and KS2 is simply to encourage pupils to appreciate ‘sense of place’ and realise what they like and do not like about some areas. 

Pupils of this age should be competent in the geographical skills needed to collect, analyse and communicate with a range of data gathered through experiences of fieldwork that deepen their understanding of geographical processes. They should also use fieldwork to observe, measure, record and present the human and physical features in the local area using a range of methods, including sketch maps, plans and graphs, and digital technologies. This activity is aligned to those requirements.

Key Stage 3 and 4

For learners at this age they should be encouraged to independently complete the survey using the tool to record their observations.

Guide students to undertake the environmental quality survey from the school site, even though some aspects of it encourage them to think about the surrounding area – they can think about the area around the school gates viewed from where they are and up to 500m in each direction. 

The purpose of the activity is to show pupils how they can assign a score to different observations. Discuss the scoring with all students before they undertake any work to help them standardise their use of the system.