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.

Effects of Nature (Greenspace) on Cognitive Functioning in School Children and Adolescents: a Systematic Review
Dianne A. Vella-Brodrick & Krystyna Gilowska  – Educational Psychology Review 
This paper provides a PRISMA-guided systematic review of the literature examining the effects of nature interventions on the cognitive functioning of young people aged 5 to 18 years. Results provide substantial support for cognitive benefits of nature interventions regarding selective attention, sustained attention and working memory. Underlying mechanisms for the benefits were also explored, including enhanced wellbeing, cognitive restoration and stress reduction—all likely to be contributors to the nature-cognition relationship. The cognitive effects of nature interventions were also examined according to age and school level with some differences evident.

Connecting Urban Green Spaces with Children: A Scientometric Analysis Using CiteSpace
Y Niu, M Adam, H Hussein – Land
A scientometric analysis of the literature on UGS and children’s studies provides a unique and exciting snapshot of this field of knowledge. The findings offer the readers a general preliminary grasp of the research in the field. Research findings suggest that collaboration and analysis involving multiple disciplines, specialties, and perspectives will become a mainstream trend in the field. Our results may help researchers further identify potential views on collaborators, research frontiers, and topical issues.

The perceived benefits of and barriers to nature-based play and learning in South Australian public primary schools: A cross-sectional study
N Miller, S Kumar, KL Pearce, KL Baldock – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This study aimed to survey school staff about the barriers and benefits of nature-based play and learning. The benefits of nature-based play and learning included ‘mental health’ (reported by 98% of participants), ‘spending time outdoors,’ ‘connection to nature,’ ‘cognitive development’ and ‘risk-taking’ (all reported by 96% of participants). The barriers included ‘teacher knowledge and/or confidence’ (68%) and ‘crowded curriculum’ (64%). No significant associations were identified between school characteristics and benefits and barriers of nature-based play and learning.

Sensory garden: piloting an affordable nature-based intervention for functional behavior of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
SI Voola, MV Kumari – Current Pediatric Research
This study develops nature based Sensory Garden and examines its influence on functional behavior of children with ADHD and replicability of Sensory Garden (SG) in home settings. The statistically significant result suggested nature based Sensory Garden with indoor SI intervention as a better therapeutic approach in enhancing functional behavior in children with ADHD. Three parents replicated SG either wholly with all the senses or partially based on child?s preference and space availability at home. Conclusion: Sensory Gardens enable children to have rich sensory stimulation experience during daily play at outdoors and serve as a potential therapeutic adjunctive tool and also can be created easily and quite economically at home settings to have an enduring influence.

High Quality Outdoor Learning: Evidence-based Education Outside the Classroom for Children, Teachers and Society
Book – Edited by Jucker & Von Au 
This open access book which focuses on curriculum-based high-quality learning enables decision makers to evaluate benefits of outdoor learning

Making Sense of Effect Sizes: Systematic Differences in Intervention Effect Sizes by Outcome Measure Type
Wolf, Harbatkin – Methodological Studies
One challenge in understanding “what works” in education is that effect sizes may not be comparable across studies, raising questions for practitioners and policymakers using research to select interventions. One factor that consistently relates to the magnitude of effect sizes is the type of outcome measure. This article uses study data from the What Works Clearinghouse to determine average effect sizes by outcome measure type. Using meta-analysis and controlling for study quality and intervention characteristics, we find larger average effect sizes for non-independent measures than for independent measures. Results suggest that larger effect sizes for non-independent measures are not due to differences in implementation fidelity, study quality, or intervention or sample characteristics. Instead, non-independent and independent measures appear to represent partially but minimally overlapping latent constructs. Findings call into question whether policymakers and practitioners should make decisions based on non-independent measures when they are ultimately responsible for improving outcomes on independent measures.

Children’s perception of biodiversity in their school grounds and its influence on their wellbeing and resilience
LN Montgomery, AC Gange, D Watling, DJ Harvey – Journal of Education and Outdoor Learning
We explored the impact of weekly nature engagement in schoolgrounds on  eight-to-eleven year-olds’ biodiversity perception, wellbeing, and resilience. At the start and end of the academic year, wellbeing and resilience questionnaires were completed, and biodiversity perception was assessed by children drawing what they thought was in their schoolgrounds. Children initially perceived few organisms within easily visible taxa, and perceived more vertebrates compared to invertebrate species. After, children were more aware of taxa, resulting in a more reflective biodiversity perception. Children with initially low scores in wellbeing and resilience increased in these measures, and a positive association was found between increased invertebrates and vertebrates perception and improved resilience

Education in nature and learning science in early childhood: a fertile and sustainable symbiosis
E García-González, M Schenetti – Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
This paper reflects upon the value of education in nature, its features and particularities and especially its relationship with learning science and sustainability early in childhood.

Parents’ Perceptions of UK Forest School: Descriptive and Evaluative Aspects
A Arvanitis, AK Touloumakos, A Barrable – Forests, 
Parental support for children’s Forest School (FS) education is likely connected to the parents’ own views about FS. We investigated parents’ perceptions of FS by performing a qualitative study on parents’ views, as expressed in an online forum for parents (Mumsnet). Findings were grouped into two main categories, descriptive (what FS is) and evaluative (FS is good or bad). Thematic analysis revealed five dimensions of evaluation: skills and knowledge, nature connectedness and physical/mental health, structure, inclusivity and enjoyment. Along these dimensions we uncovered tensions between opposing views. We also identified two strategies for dealing with these tensions, dismissal and balance

‘A new adventure’: a case study of autistic children at Forest School
S Friedman, J Gibson, C Jones, C Hughes – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This case study explores the experiences of 25 autistic children participating in a Forest School at their specialist school in the East of England. Our results indicated that Forest School benefited these autistic children through opportunities to play, exercise autonomy, and develop practical, motor, and social skills. However, challenges were also evident, including children absconding and conflict between peers. The success of sessions seemed contingent on adherence to routines and the influence of the adults present

Outdoor Learning, A Pathway to Transformational Learning? Or Another Educational Gimmick?
L Parker – International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education
This paper provides an in-depth overview to answer the question, is outdoor learning a pathway to transformational learning or another educational gimmick? This is looked at across six themes

  • the ambiguity throughout history in defining education outside the classroom
  • outdoor learning has a long and varied history within education
  • the benefits of outdoor learning which include health and wellbeing, social-emotional and cognitive development, academic and behavioral benefits, memory benefits, increased positive attitudes towards the environment, and positive teacher benefits.
  • the barriers and challenges to implementing outdoor learning within schooling
  • critical considerations that must be addressed when implementing an outdoor learning program; this includes cost, student numbers, transportation, insurance, time, framework, skills, assessments, the curriculum, and training.
  • the effects of COVID-19 on outdoor learning within all levels of schooling.

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