Here’s a further update from Natural England by way of relevant evidence and reports, policy agenda developments, large scale delivery sector initiatives, resources and news items from the UK and abroad, with a focus on schools, education and learning. This supports the Strategic Research Network for People and Nature to develop better coherence and collaboration in research and to improve links between research, policy and practice in these areas.
Constructions of Space: Exploring Photographic Images in Forest School
A Garden – PRISM Journal
This research builds on the recently published paper (Garden, 2022c), which explored through interviews the use of iPads as cameras to enhance Forest School practice. Children’s perspectives of the Forest School space captured what was important to them on camera (Garden, 2022c). Working with the same group of 32 Key Stage 2 children selected from two UK primary schools, the research explored the images captured on iPad cameras during the follow-on session. The unstructured interviews explored the children’s feelings and meanings associated with the images captured in the Forest School space using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The photographs can be understood within the themes of ‘play with technology’, ‘soft fascination’ and ‘place attachment’, all of which are inherent in the Forest School ethos. Suggestions for future research include reflections on the ways the capturing of images of Forest School can encourage peer collaboration whilst considering the relative influence of space.
The Superhero Garden Project – Outdoor Gardening in Early Childhood Education in the United Arab Emirates.
AM Dillon et al. – Children, Youth and Environments
The Early Childhood Learning Centre featured in this report is an on-campus university laboratory nursery in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The centre staff provided opportunities for the children to engage in collaborative partnerships with two colleges at the university. The children utilized newly developed outdoor gardening spaces to explore how the natural environment functions within a unique desert climate. By engaging with plants that had perceived “superpowers” such as climbing and providing food, the children were offered rich classroom experiences in the specific environmental context of the UAE. The Superhero Garden Project provided an excellent start for generating interest in gardens as places of growth, beauty and healing among children, teachers and the faculty, as well as benefiting children’s learning.
Using Out-Of-Class ESD Experiences to Link the Outside World with Young People’s Lives.
FV Ciangura and MC Mifsud – Chapter in Educating the Sustainability Leaders of the Future
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is generally understood as education that encourages changes in knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to ensure a more sustainable and fair society for all. ESD requires innovative pedagogies, not only in classrooms, but also in out-of-class activities to promote exploratory, action-oriented and transformative learning. The main aim of this study is to investigate the benefits, if any, of using out-of-class activities, namely gardening to promote ESD. This research showed how experiential out-of-class activities, namely gardening and activities linked to it, can impact the students’ cognitive, affective, interpersonal/social, as well as physical/behaviour to reflect ESD principles at different levels. This research demonstrates how equitable and effective education for sustainable development needs to move beyond formal exams and must also acknowledge different types of valuable learning. This university research and its outcomes will be of interest to anyone who would like to effectively fuse out-of-class, hands-on gardening activities with ESD pedagogies in a way that increases sustainability values, attitudes and knowledge, globally.
Outdoor Learning Activities in the Field of Science in Primary Education.
J Dzerviniks – In Proceedings of 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
The aim of the research is to analyze the scientific, methodological literature and educational planning documents on the implementation of outdoor learning activities in the field of science learning in primary education in order to develop research-based recommendations to promote the successful implementation of outdoor education in the learning process. The research presented in the article is based on the analysis of scientific and methodological literature and related documents, the analytical judgments are based on previous research and the author’s personal experience in the study of science methodology.
The Benefits of Outdoor Education for Children Aged 5-12 Years from the Parents’ Perspective.
I Hergan et al. – In Proceedings of 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
As part of the Apole Erasmus + project, the team of researchers and teachers in Slovenia worked on preparing outdoor activities for pupils aged 5-12 and on bringing innovations into the classroom with a focus on acquiring skills for life. Before preparing the activities for the pupils, we conducted a survey among pupils’ parents and asked them for their opinions on what they thought their children could benefit from outdoor education.. The results show that parents believe that schools conduct only a small part of the lessons outside the school building. They see the benefits of outdoor teaching mainly in motor skills development, better well-being, communication with classmates, exploring and observing nature and phenomena in nature, in the area of manual skills, independence (in orientation in space, self-care, safety), and in connection with nature.
Connecting Children to Nature Through Scientific Inquiry: The Impact on Children’s Well-Being.
MW Link – Chapter in Exploring Elementary Science Teaching and Learning in Canada
This chapter discusses an approach to teaching science that aims to support student well-being through local experiences with nature. The findings, gathered through semi-structured interviews as well as classroom and outdoor observations, indicate how the evaluated outdoor education approach provides opportunities for students to develop and enact the identified capabilities. This innovative approach to teaching science may provide a loose framework for consideration in other contexts by teachers and theorists who are concerned with the well-being of students.
Using Wearable GPS Technology to Explore Children’s Authentic Interest in Nature.
J Jewell – Chapter in Exploring Elementary Science Teaching and Learning in Canada
This chapter provides insight on the topic of student movement when given autonomy in a diverse natural landscape in the Yukon, Canada. Through a mixed methods approach, I investigated where 7- and 8-year-old children went and what they did in a boreal forest. Data were collected through field notes, interviews, and geospatial technology (i.e., GPS units worn by the children). Key findings from the study included the importance of play as a primary means of interacting with the environment, interest in living things as a strong motivator for exploration, the affordance of loose parts (e.g., sticks, berries), and the influence of the diverse topography upon actions (e.g., hills for running, dense forest for hiding). It is important for educators, parents, and policymakers to understand the various aspects of children’s actions in nature when offered choice.
The Role of Parents in the Organization of Environmental Education of Junior School Children in Extra-Curricular Activities in the Conditions of Blended Learning.
E Grigoreva et al. – In Proceedings of 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
The purpose of the article is to describe the identified typical difficulties of parents controlling the extracurricular activities of children in distance learning, and to determine the content, means of forms and methods of organizing extracurricular activities aimed at implementing environmental education in blended learning formats.  The theoretical and practical value of the study is in the conclusions, practical developments, methodological recommendations for the implementation of blended learning in the process of organizing environmental education.
Nature Is Our Classroom: Place-Conscious Pedagogy and Elementary Science Education.
S Pelech and D Kelly – Chapter in Exploring Elementary Science Teaching and Learning in Canada
This chapter explores how place-conscious pedagogy provides for learning that connects science education with students’ innate curiosity and wonderment for the world by situating experiences within local ecosystems. Our research shows that once children connect with the wonder of place, teachers can expand students’ ecological horizon to encourage care and concern for a global community. This chapter explores a theoretical framework for place-conscious pedagogy in the context of science education and provides a case study of an elementary school in Alberta where teachers embrace opportunities local ecosystems offer to connect science with student curiosity and wonder. The case study examined provides practical examples of how being open to the learning opportunities local habitats provide can generate meaningful science education rooted in experiences of curiosity, wonder, and discovery.
The Impact of Outdoor Education in Teaching-Learning Practices: A Study of Italian Schools.
C Giunti et al. – In Proceedings of 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
As a response to the pandemic emergency, in the last two years Outdoor education (OE) approach has become popular also in Italy countering the limits imposed by the pandemic on the measures of Covid-19 prevention (social distancing, preferences for outdoor places, etc.). Regarding the OE pedagogical approach, the scientific literature lists the favourable effects of engaging students in experiential learning and field-based education. Immersing students in physically active and offering them authentic activities improve students’ well-being, increase their self-efficacy and promote students’ motivation to learn. The data collected reveal that OE: has transformed the lecture-based model by introducing active teaching and learning practices, has fostered flow access between the use of the indoor and outdoor space, has redesigned school-time in order to foster outdoor collaborative activities and experiential learning.
Bridging Western Theories and Indigenous Perspectives to Implement STEM in Outdoor Early Childhood Educational Settings.
C Hughes and E Maaita – Journal of Education and Practice
During the Covid-19 pandemic, educators were obliged to rethink traditional classroom settings and explore alternative learning environments. Consequently, numerous outdoor education programs and forest schools emerged in North America during that time. This article emphasizes on how combining outdoor education and STEM subjects can result in a holistic approach to education that addresses the needs of the whole child. Children are not only able to learn about the natural world but also to develop fundamental skills that will help them in their future education and careers. Additionally, outdoor education can provide children with a sense of well-being and connectedness to the natural world, which can have positive effects on their mental and physical health.
Designing Immersive, Narrative-Based Interfaces to Guide Outdoor Learning (additional link).
AY Cheng et al. – In Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Outdoor learning experiences, such as field trips, can improve children’s science achievement and engagement, but these experiences are often difficult to deliver without extensive support. Narrative in educational experiences can provide needed structure, while also increasing engagement. We created a narrative-based, mobile application to investigate how to guide young learners in interacting with their local, outdoor environment. In a second variant, we added augmented reality and image classification to explore the value of these features. A study (n = 44) found that participants using our system demonstrated learning gains and found the experience engaging. Our findings identified several major themes, including participant excitement for hands-on interactions with nature, curiosity about the characters, and enthusiasm toward typing their thoughts and observations. We offer a set of design implications for supporting narrative-based, outdoor learning with immersive technology.
Have teachers’ opinions about outdoor education changed after the pandemic?
É Borsos et al. – Journal of Biological Education
The pandemic had a huge effect on education all over the world. Online education is not really effective at bringing students closer to nature, so spending quality time in nature has become very important as many believe it is essential for the students’ normal physical and psychological development. Parents and teachers play a vital role in this process by holding outdoor classes. In our work, 372 working teachers from three countries (Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary) were asked to present their opinions about outdoor education. The results were analysed and compared between countries and with data collected four years ago. They considered it essential to hold as many outdoor classes as possible. However, they could only sometimes implement such intentions because of issues beyond their control.

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