February 17, 2024

Charlotte Mason's Pedagogical Approach with Jen Ager and Dr. Heather Prince

Charlotte Mason's Pedagogical Approach with Jen Ager and Dr. Heather PrinceCharlotte Mason's Pedagogical Approach with Jen Ager and Dr. Heather Prince


The Charlotte Mason Centenary Series, a multi-authored monograph series commissioned in connection with the Charlotte Mason Centenary, is designed to highlight and explore the continuing educational and leadership relevance of the late 19th-century British educationalist Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) through the collective contributions of The Armitt Museum and Library, the University of Cumbria, the Charlotte Mason Institute, and other scholars and practitioners worldwide.

This post is included in a series on the monographs. Each post gives a snapshot of the author's motivation for writing, the various topics and content of each monograph, and suggestions for who might benefit most from the work.


Jen Ager and Dr. Heather Prince coauthored the monograph titled Charlotte Mason’s Pedagogical Approach: Embedded Outdoor and Experiential Learning. Jen has worked as a class teacher and Assistant Headteacher in primary schools since 2002. She is currently employed by the Institute of Education at the University of Cumbria as an education lecturer working on postgraduate and undergraduate teacher training programmes. Jen has completed a Masters in Outdoor and Experiential Learning, is a Level 3 Forest School Practitioner, and has worked for outdoor education providers. She is passionate about ensuring that children of all ages access the outdoors regularly and believes that the benefits of this are vast. Committed to providing experiences for children to learn about the world around them, she has expertise in being a curriculum lead in a primary school that established outdoor learning and global learning as key curriculum drivers.

Heather is Professor of Outdoor and Environmental Education at the University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK. As a qualified teacher, she worked in schools and outdoor centres before becoming a coordinator for Outdoor Education in Cumbria and training teachers at Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside. She designs, develops, and teaches programmes in outdoor studies at the university and is interested in the development and efficacy of pedagogic practice. She has a strong values base of enabling all children and young people to benefit from learning outdoors. Her research interests are in school-based outdoor learning, sustainability, and adventure. She has published widely and is Co-editor of the International Handbook of Outdoor Studies (2016), Research Methods in Outdoor Studies (2019), and Outdoor Environmental Education in Higher Education: International Perspectives (2021). She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning.

What motivated you to join this research project?

Jen Ager: I first encountered Charlotte Mason's teaching philosophy when studying in Ambleside for my undergraduate degree and qualified teacher status. My twenty-year teaching career in primary schools and my current role as a lecturer in education have been influenced in part by some of what Charlotte Mason held dear. The opportunity to be directly involved in some further research and co-authorship for the monograph series - and also be part of a creative and supportive community of researchers - was not only attractive but also a good opportunity to further my knowledge about different aspects of Charlotte Mason's work and the relevance of it today for educators.

Dr. Heather Prince: The collective endeavor by scholars to bring 'alive' the works of Charlotte Mason today and to demonstrate that her beliefs and principles have application and meaning to contemporary educators and learners motivated me to join this effort.  

Why did you pick your topic?

Jen: Outdoor education and outdoor learning have been the steering force for my approach to teaching. I had completed my MA thesis whilst working as a senior leader in a school that focused on embracing outdoor learning as a whole school approach to delivering the curriculum. Charlotte Mason advocated for nature, science, and the outdoors life. There were distinct parallels between my research and her approach. I was interested in exploring this further with Heather, focusing on how the outdoors can connect children to their learning using the immediate environment available to them. The timing of the monographs was due to the centenary; however, there were additional reasons that were apparent in terms of how using the outdoor learning approach is not only high beneficial, but much needed. The aftermath of the lockdown and COVID-19 highlighted the importance of children having regular time outside and engaging with the natural environment. The topic we chose was a way to share good practices and offer a model that had worked by way of example for those educators who may need some support or ideas to start using the approach.

Heather: Outdoor and experiential learning is the main focus of my teaching and research. We wanted to show that Charlotte Mason's ideas of learning, being outdoors and nature study are relevant to contemporaneous outdoor learning and can be manifested in current practice.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered during your research and writing?

Jen: Mason recognised all the benefits of children learning outdoors. These benefits are evident in current research today, albeit she used different terminology to articulate them.

Heather: I found the breadth and depth of Charlotte Mason's thinking and writing in this area and the parallels that can be drawn in her methods and teaching that have applications for education and learning today fascinating. Mandating a search of the archives at the Armitt Trust revealed fascinating information that we integrated into our research and writing.

What one or two ideas do you most hope people take away from reading your monograph?

Jen: The outdoors is an extension of the indoors and has ample learning opportunities and invitations. When planning for any learning activity, take a minute to consider what doing it outside could offer. I also want people to realize there is no need for specialist equipment or training for outdoor learning. Be naturally curious and resourceful yourself. You will find that this enriches your facilitation and implementation of any learning experiences you aim for.

Heather: The pedagogical principles applied through theory and practice using the outdoors, as espoused by Charlotte Mason, are relevant to contemporary teaching and learning in outdoor and experiential learning in educational settings.

Who do you think should (especially) read your monograph?

Jen: Anyone involved in working with children to facilitate learning experiences should read this monograph, whether in a formal education setting and looking at taking a curriculum framework outside or an informal education setting and looking at following a child's natural curiosity and taking their lead. For those who are interested in how Charlotte Mason's legacy is still valued and important today, this monograph will help confirm that current research supports her advocation of being outside on a regular basis and engaging with nature.

Heather: This monograph could appeal to teachers, home educators, and scholars of outdoor and experiential learning.

Final Thoughts

Jen: It has been a pleasure to work alongside other authors to produce the monographs. Enjoy reading them and supporting keeping Charlotte Mason's philosophy alive and wide-reaching.


"Mason, following influence from Froebel, believed it was the role of educators to provide rich experiences, and to facilitate and guide children to learn about the interrelationships of all living things through the outdoors." (p.13).

"Using outdoor learning as an approach to education offers opportunity to consider and use the holistic environment, the atmosphere, surrounding a child. Providing regular access to their outdoor environment can nurture a discipline of repeated experiences and habit building of being in the outdoors and all the benefits that this can bring." (p. 17)

"Mason promoted developing a habit of being outdoors regularly, on a consistent basis, and becoming familiar with the environment and world around us through experiencing it. How an individual interacts with that environment and which encounters will register and provoke thought or curiosity will undoubtedly differ from person to person." (p. 29)

"Using an outdoor learning approach to teach children has the potential to connect children to how they learn, to stretch their capacity to learn, and to transfer their learning to new contexts, both in a learning setting and beyond. This is a process that can be applied to any curriculum." (p. 31)

Jen Ager (top) and Dr. Heather Prince (bottom)

Jen and Heather's monograph is available in print as a physical or digital copy.

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