This is a recent round up by Natural England 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.
Investigating Teacher-Child Interactions in a Nature-Based and Non-Nature Preschool
RA Larimore – PhD Michigan State University
This dissertation analyzed videos of preschool teaching to describe nature-based teaching practices, particularly around the outdoors as a classroom and a place for science learning. The findings suggest that context, particularly the physical setting, influenced the frequency and quality of teachers’ talk directed at children and that longer-lasting teacher/pupil interactions primarily occurred outside formal science lessons. Outdoor experiences, particularly free choice experiences, can provide contextual supports for interactions that are not available indoors.
Nature Preschool as a Promoter of Physical Activity in Young Children: An Exploratory Study of Nature Preschool in a Northern Climate
J Ernst et al – International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education
This study utilized a pedometer within a quasi-experimental design to quantitatively explore the influence of nature preschools on the PA of preschool-aged children. Results suggest that nature preschools support sufficient PA; furthermore, participants were able to achieve recommended PA during cold and wet months through unstructured nature play. These findings suggest that nature preschools support PA, even during winter months. The results also point to the important role unstructured nature play has in supporting children’s physical activity and overall well-being.
Using the outdoors to enhance learning experiences at secondary school
D Ashlee, R Fuller – Chapter in School Farms: Feeding and Educating Children
This chapter, through a case study method, explores innovative attempts to combat the contemporary challenge of how teenagers understand where food comes from to achieve food security and sustainability. The chapter also explores strategies to engage teaching staff, make the farm an integral part of the curriculum, appeal to teenagers, extend the provision of their unique resource, and use the farm to encourage attendance and promote health and wellbeing. It includes tried and tested ideas for a case study approach that other schools can use entirely, or in part.
Cannot See the Forest for the Trees? Comparing Learning Outcomes of a Field Trip vs. a Classroom Approach
J Schneiderhan-Opel, FX Bogner – Forests
We compared learning outcomes within a nature-based forest and a classroom setting. Students in both settings acquired short and long-term environmental knowledge regardless of environment but in neither case did the learning activities intervene with individual environmental values. However, pro-environmental values showed a positive correlation with the mean knowledge scores in both studies, while for anthropogenic values, this relationship was reversed. A comparison revealed that, in both treatment groups, those with high pro-environmental values and low anthropogenic values showed better performance than their counterparts.
Environmental education: effects on knowledge, attitudes and perceptions, and gender differences
R Del Rey et al – International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education
This exploratory study values whether participating in environmental education programmes improves the environmental knowledge, attitudes and perception about water. The results show evidence about the effectiveness of environmental education programmes about water. Particularly, the changes were greater when the environmental knowledge and perception were evaluated. There was an increase in the willing to learn and know more about environmental education and water.
The impact of an outdoor learning experience on the development of English creative writing skills: an action research case study of year 7 and 8 secondary school students in Australia
IA Neville, LA Petrass, F Ben – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This study employed an action research methodology to investigate whether an outdoor learning experience in a Year 7/8 English Writers Workshop course at a secondary school in Victoria, Australia enhanced creative writing capacity and engagement. Statistically significant improvement was demonstrated in creative writing from pre-intervention to post-intervention. Qualitative thematic analysis identified the learning environment, quiet space, and the instructional approach as key themes.
Experts, insects and informality: three key features within a school-linked conservation initiative
A Ruck – Environmental Education Research
This article highlights three key features that appeared to add value to young people’s experience of a school-linked initiative built around conservation activities. The three features – close-up encounters with other species, working with external experts, and a degree of informality – were identified through participant-observation, and focus groups. The three features highlight the value of a process of ‘curriculum making’ that included an openness to the communities in which schools are situated, to the material or ‘more-than-human’ world, and unplanned events that enabled young people to experience a programme in their own ways.
Thinking Through Places
S Tannock – Chapter in Educating for Radical Social Transformation in the Climate Crisis
There is disagreement on how exactly place is important in education, and how place should be addressed within educational practice. To develop an effective engagement with place in climate change education, there is a need not just to understand the arguments for why a focus on place in education is important; but also the critiques of invocations of place in educational theory and practice. Place can be pivotal in climate change education, but only when considered within broader political, historical and global geographical contexts, and when relationships of reciprocity between various factors are critically interrogated
‘Our Forest School isn’t just the trees. ‘Forest Schools: micro-communities for social and emotional development
L Blackham, A Cocks, LT Bunce – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This study sought to understand the impact of Forest School provision on the social and emotional development of participants using practitioner’s reflections. A thematic analysis revealed three interrelated themes, which are inherent in the Forest School ethos. These themes show Forest Schools to be micro-communities constructed by participants. The study concluded that Forest School micro-communities are established by each Forest School that is formed. These micro-communities contribute to the social and emotional development of children and young people through the construction of a shared space, fostering a sense of community and a shared power paradigm between leaders and participants.
Tree canopy coverage predicts lower conduct problem severity in children with ASD.
Barger et al – Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Information on almost 80,000 children (age 6-17), accessed from the National Survey of Children’s Health, showed that children with special health care needs or having autism had increased odds of moderate to high levels of conduct problems. Green space data, accessed through the National Land Cover Database (NLCD), linked with the child data showed that community tree canopy coverage significantly decreased the odds of conduct problems in children with autism.