Here’s an 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.

Evaluation of the Little Rock Green Schoolyard initiative: a quasi-experimental study protocol
MJ Barenie et al. – BMC Public Health
Evidence suggests that access to green schoolyards may facilitate vigorous play and lead to increased physical activity, which could lead to improved academic outcomes and reduce excess childhood weight gain. Greener schoolyards can also provide additional outdoor amenities that help the community at large. The Little Rock Green Schoolyard Initiative, a program aiming to promote outdoor learning and play in two of the city’s community schools, provides a natural experiment to evaluate the role of such interventions. This article presents the protocols and study plans that will be used to evaluate this community-led initiative. Administrative datasets will be used to assess exposure to green schoolyard improvements on academic achievement, attendance, and disciplinary referrals during elementary school.

A study on children’s multi-sensorial experiences of nature: design approaches and preferences for primary school architecture, case studies in Glasgow, Scotland, UK
D Grierson and P To – International Journal of Architectural Research (in press)
Providing improved access to nature within educational settings can promote stronger child-nature connections and is conditional on making evidence-based decisions for the planning, design, and refurbishment of school architecture. The study offers insight into ways of reconnecting children with nature by examining the distribution and classification of diverse natural elements for enhancing children’s visual and non-visual experiences of educational environments.  This study’s findings reveal that architectural features and landscape settings have significant influence on the quantitative and qualitative degrees of children’s natural exploration through visual and non-visual sensorial modalities and environmental preferences.  There is a need for further investigation on children’s experiences of nature based on temporal and contextual differences, and varying educational-socio-cultural and economic factors.  The findings suggest that applications of natural diversity, accessible and flexible pathways and indoor natural settings, are potential approaches to connect children with nature within their study and play environments.

The Relationship Between Parental Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviour: Australian Primary School -Aged Children and Nature Experiences
T McHugh et al. – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
Children are spending significantly less time outdoors in free play than previous generations, which has implications for children’s development. This study explores parental knowledge, attitudes and the time children spend in outdoor free play. Data collected included knowledge of the benefits of outdoor play, attitudes towards outdoor play and time children spend outdoors. Participants had a positive attitude towards outdoor recreation, demonstrating a statistically significant positive correlation with time their child spends in outdoor free play on a non-school and school day. Findings contribute to research within the Australian context regarding the influence that parental attitude has on children’s engagement with nature, allowing for potential programmes around parental attitudes, to support greater time outdoors.

Parent and early childhood educator perspectives of unstructured nature play for young children: A qualitative descriptive study
KA Dankiw et al. – PLOS ONE
Current research highlights the benefits of engaging in unstructured nature play for children’s health and development; yet little is known about the experiences of key nature play end-users such as parents and early childhood educators, even though they directly impact the application of nature play within early childhood settings. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap by exploring parent and early childhood educator (ECE) perspectives to gain an understanding about their experiences with nature play. The findings suggest that parents and ECEs may need additional resources and guidance on how to engage with nature play and how to overcome barriers within early childhood settings and the home environment.

The development of a professional development model focusing on outdoor learning resources to enhance in-service teachers’ STEM literacy
S Pitiporntapin et al. – Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences
This study aimed to (1) identify the need assessment of enhancing teachers’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) literacy; (2) develop a professional development (PD) model to enhance teachers’ STEM literacy focusing on using outdoor learning resources; and (3) study the effectiveness of a PD model using outdoor learning resources to enhance teachers’ STEM literacy. The findings revealed that the top needs to enhance teachers’ STEM literacy that most teachers identified was the connection of STEM education with other disciplines. For the model, there are five components: principles, objectives, outdoor STEM activities, supported strategies, and evaluation. Teachers increased their STEM literacy scores after participating according to the PD model, with a significant difference of .01. The findings also showed that teachers’ satisfaction with the PD model was at an excellent level.

The nature and scope of Outdoor Education in Western Australia
D Picknoll et al. – Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
Outdoor Education has evolved as a learning area in Western Australia over many years. In this paper we document historical elements of an investigation into the nature and scope of Outdoor Education in Western Australia. Previous investigations conducted by other researchers on the nature and scope of Outdoor Education focused on Victoria, South Australia, and New Zealand guided the design and conduct of this study.  We examine the introduction of the Outdoor Education course offered as an option in the Western Australian Certificate of Education. We provide signposts of significant events with consideration of the secondary and tertiary education settings. Outdoor Education, in its many formats, has a strong historical presence in Western Australia and continues to hold great potential within the curriculum.

“When I’m playing with him, everything else in my life sort of falls away”: exploring grandparents’ and grandchildren’s learning through outdoor play
M Duflos et al. – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
A decline in children’s opportunities for outdoor play was observed during the past decades. Expanding opportunities for outdoor play through intergenerational programs for children and elders could benefit their mental and physical health. This study explores the learnings that Canadian grandparents and their 3- to 5-year-old grandchildren attained through intergenerational outdoor play. Findings from this study indicate that outdoor play provides a unique opportunity to develop skills that are useful at grandparents’ and grandchildren’s respective life stages and should therefore be supported by educators and other professionals who work with families.

Taking seminars outdoors in nature: alternative learning spaces in LJMU
A Garden – Paper in Student Experience Proceedings
The research is formed around conducting university seminar groups outdoors in the on-campus outdoor learning area and provides a starting point for understanding the potential value of outdoor classrooms and engagement with nature within higher education contexts.  Participants reported that conversations were more relaxed and interactive due to the less structured environment, and they felt ‘more awake’ due to extraneous conditions such as the fresh air, the experiences of nature and the positioning of the seating. The tutor similarly felt more able to engage the students in the discussions due to the circular format of the seating.  The conclusions focus on providing an excellent student experience beyond the potential constraints of the indoor classroom. The research explores the ways in which new educational spaces can be formed, contested, and colonised and the benefits of nature for learning environments, whilst making no claims to the learning efficacy of such spaces per se.

Role of Landscape Elements in Enhancing Child-Responsive Outdoor Educational spaces
M Manoj and B Chitra.M – European Chemical Bulletin
The aim of this research is to study the natural spaces associated with physical, emotional and educational development of children and the role of landscape elements in achieving the same.  The study primarily focuses on the different influencing factors of landscape in improving the learning atmosphere for children.  The research also explains how outdoor learning benefits the physical, emotional, educational and cognitive development of children up to the age of ten years. The study also demonstrates how various landscape features might improve efficient outdoor learning areas. Analysis of data shows that various landscape features have an impact on children’s development at an early age. In order to create outdoor places for kids that are of higher quality and can support kids’ learning, this study suggests design ideas and principles that designers should adhere to.


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