Here’s another 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.

Learning in Local Greenspace project evaluation report
Nature Scot Report
This outdoor learning project was led by NatureScot as part of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Route Map to 2020. It directly supported 115 schools serving or located in disadvantaged communities across Scotland to access and use their local greenspace, resulting in:teachers taking learning outdoors more frequently in school grounds and local greenspaces and across most subject areas; improved teacher confidence in taking learning outdoors; pupils more engaged in learning outdoors; pupils better connected with nature

The power of garden-based curriculum to promote scientific and nature-friendly attitudes in children through a cotton project.
Kim et al.  – Journal of Research in Childhood Education
Preschoolers participating in a garden project involving cotton in South Korea made significantly higher gains in scientific attitudes and nature-friendly attitudes than preschoolers not participating in the project. While in the garden, the participating group experienced self-directed and cooperative learning, engaged in the scientific process, demonstrated nature-friendly attitudes, and increased their sense of wonder.

The impact of school gardens on youth social and emotional learning: A scoping review.
Lohr et al – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This literature review focused on how school garden programs – while addressing academic goals – can impact social emotional learning (SEL) among children and adolescents. Findings from qualitative (vs quantitative) studies from five different countries showed that the benefits of school garden programs can include improved SEL competencies and heightened connections with nature. 

Use of gardening programs as an intervention to increase children’s visual-motor integration.
Sommerfeld et al – Hort Technology
Pre/post-assessments of visual-motor integration showed no significant differences in preschoolers participating in a gardening program in the United States and preschoolers not participating in the program. When just the male students were considered, however, significant differences were found, with the males in the gardening group achieving higher scores in visual-motor integration than males in the non-gardening group.

Building collaborative competencies through play with outdoor loose parts materials in primary school
H Mackley, S Edwards, K Mclean, R Cinelli – Cambridge Journal of Education
This paper reports on the findings from a study investigating the provision of outdoor loose parts materials for upper primary school aged children. The findings suggest that loose parts materials are used by children in the formation of sociodramatic play, including episodes of trading, bartering and advertising that support their shared understandings. Shared understandings precede collaborative competencies, including engagements with others, working towards and achieving common goals.

Outdoor education in Canadian public schools: Connecting children and youth to people, place, and environment
M Asfeldt, R Purc-Stephenson, T Zimmerman – Environmental Education Research
Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify the underlying philosophies, learning goals, and activities of K-12 OE programs in Canada. Using a descriptive research design, we conducted a web-based survey consisting of closed-and open-ended questions of 100 K-12 programs across Canada. Our findings indicate the programs are grounded in hands-on experiential learning that is holistic and integrates knowledge from a variety of disciplines. Primary learning goals include personal growth, community building, environmental stewardship, and people and place consciousness. OE activities varied but commonly included basic outdoor skills that can be practiced regardless of seasons.

The case for space in the co-construction of risk in UK forest schools
A Garden – Education 3-13
This UK focussed theoretical paper builds on Harper’s (2017. “Outdoor Risky Play and Healthy Child Development in the Shadow of the “Risk Society”: A Forest and Nature School Perspective.” Child & Youth Services 38 (4): 318–334) work in Canadian Forest Schools and the role that Forest Schools play in education by including outdoor risky play. It considers the conceptualisation of a risk-averse Western society, with a focus on healthy childhood development, and the childhood risks within Forest School that are present yet arguably small. Conclusions include a value that risk-taking has within the Forest School space. The implications of Beck’s risk society, its ongoing influence on societal beliefs and practices, inducing practitioners’ fear of litigation over accidents and injury are highlighted.

Viewing Digital Nature Scenes Not Sufficient to Enhance Verbal Creativity in Children
YA Ibrahim, T Saravanamuttoo, SA Johnson – Ecopsychology
We investigated the effect of exposure to static images of natural and urban scenery on verbal creativity in children using a between-subjects repeated measures design. Independent samples t-tests indicated that participants tested online versus in-person did not differ on characterization variables (e.g., age, gender, verbal cognitive ability) or creativity measure scores, and thus, the groups were combined for subsequent analyses. Repeated-measures analysis of variance did not support the hypothesis that children in the nature condition would demonstrate more improvement in verbal creativity than those in the urban condition. These findings suggest that short exposures to nature scenery were not sufficient to enhance verbal creativity in children. 

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