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.

‘Almost pooped on—dislike!’: student and teacher reactions to nature-based learning and resulting practical advice for implementing in secondary schools
MF Norwood, A Lakhani, E Kendall – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
The research question was: how do teachers and students perceive and experience outdoor learning environments compared to indoor environments? Forty-seven students aged 13–14 years, and 2 teachers, took part in 5-weeks of indoor and 5-weeks of outdoor lessons. A phenomenological approach explored the lived experiences of participants in the outdoor classroom; thematic analysis was used to interpret the data. Teachers reported learning and engagement as comparable in the indoor and outdoor settings. Teachers required resources, school support and guidelines to capitalise on the potential of nature-based learning. A practical ‘how to’ for teachers and schools looking to move outside is included.

Affordances of coastal environments to support teaching and learning: outdoor learning at the beach in Scotland
D Barrable, A Barrable – Education
This paper looks at outdoor learning in a coastal environment, which has not received as much attention. Through the lens of affordance theory, we examine the possibilities for practice in such a space. Interviews with experienced early years and primary-school practitioners provide a rich narrative of ways that the beach environment can support and extend teaching and learning. Findings suggest that space, natural resources and the elements provide a wealth of opportunities for different types of pedagogical approaches and self-directed learning and play. We examine the potential for beach environments to be used more widely for learning in primary settings.

Mobile Outdoor Learning Effect on Students’ Conceptual Change and Transformative Experience
K Mettis, T Väljataga, Õ Uus – Technology, Knowledge and Learning
To find out if mobile outdoor learning could be used to shift students’ scientific understandings and to facilitate their knowledge transfer, i.e. students use their acquired knowledge in everyday life, an action research was conducted with 158 students (age 14–16). The results indicated that students gain knowledge during mobile outdoor learning and develop a conceptual change. Furthermore, the results showed that a learning scenario focusing on a socio-environmental problem had a bigger impact on students’ transformative experience towards science learning than a more biologically specific topic

Nature-based early childhood education and children’s social, emotional and cognitive development: A mixed-methods systematic review.
Johnstone et al. – International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
While the certainty of evidence was low, this review found consistent positive links between nature-based early childhood education and growth in self-regulation, nature relatedness, and play interaction. Possible pathways to the positive outcomes include more diversified play, increased creativity and imagination, and prosocial interactions with peers and teachers. A total of 36 studies representing 12 different countries were included in this review, with the U.S. being the most highly represented country. 

How does play in the outdoors afford opportunities for schema development in young children?
Boulton & Thomas – International Journal of Play
For this case study, researchers in Wales observed and photographed preschool children over a two-year period as they used resources in an outdoor environment. Findings indicated that the children chose to engage with loose parts as a significant part of their play and that the diverse ways in which they used the loose parts promoted their cognitive, creative, and physical development.

How to support young children’s interest development during exploratory natural science activities in outdoor environments.
Skalstad & Munkebye – Teaching and Teacher Education
This study, involving four classes of Norwegian children (age 4 to 8), found that children’s interest in natural materials develops through stages. Teachers can support this interest by identifying the different stages, by having sufficient subject matter expertise, and by practicing social and cognitive congruence with the children.

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