Here is the first part of Natural England’s recent round up of evidence and reports, policy agenda developments, large scale delivery sector initiatives, resources and news items.  This supports the Strategic Research Groups for Learning in Natural Environments and Outdoors for All in order to develop better coherence and collaboration in research and to improve links between research, policy and practice in these areas.  The following items have a focus on reports and research.

Monitor of engagement with the natural environment: 2015 to 2016
Results for the seventh year of the MENE survey which provides data on how people use the natural environment in England. This survey aims to provide information about the relationship between people and the natural environment. Whilst the main focus of the survey is on visits to the natural environment, it also seeks to capture other ways of using or enjoying the natural environment such as time spent in the garden and watching nature programmes on television.

Work on the Wild Side report
This report was produced in partnership with Learning Away Consortium members, CLOtC, IOL and AHOEC analyses the UK primary and secondary schools with the highest Progress 8 scores and winners of the Pupil Premium Awards. It summarises what they said about residentials and outdoor learning in their external prospectuses and websites, and what inspectors said about the same topic in their most recent Ofsted reports.

Wilderness Schooling: A controlled trial of the impact of an outdoor education programme on attainment outcomes in primary school pupils
T Quibell, J Charlton, J Law – British Educational Research Journal, 2017
This study explores the educational impact of a structured curriculum-based outdoor learning programme for primary school children: ‘Wilderness Schooling’. Data show that children in the Wilderness Schooling group significantly improved their attainment in all three subjects compared to controls.

Effects of regular classes in outdoor education settings: a systematic review on students’ learning, social and health dimensions
Becker et al.  International Journal of environmental research and public heath 
The aim of this systematic review was to identify studies about regular compulsory school- and curriculum-based OEPs, to categorise and evaluate reported outcomes, to assess the methodological quality, and to discuss possible benefits for students. Tendencies were detected that regular compulsory school- and curriculum-based OEPs can promote students in respect of social, academic, physical and psychological dimensions.

Cultural Transmission at Nature Kindergartens: Foraging as a Key Ingredient
C Nugent, S Beames – Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), 2017
Drawing on observations recorded at two forest-based nature kindergartens in Finland and Scotland, the data illustrate how outdoor learning sites are richly resourced places where foraging practices are mediated by socio-cultural norms. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (1977) is used to consider the ways in which foraging practices, in contrasting early childhood education programs, are hallmarked by “conduit” adults. These adults play a constitutive role in maintaining uncontested, “common sense,” quotidian behaviors.

Academic Interventions for Elementary and Middle School Students With Low Socioeconomic StatusA Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Jens Dietrichson et al Review of Education Research
This analysis looks at effective academic interventions for pupils with low socio-economic status and concludes that in general interventions targeted at low SE groups do help to reduce gap in achievement between low and high SE groups.

From little acorns..:environmental action as a source of well-being for schoolchildren
Waite, Goodenough, Norris and Puttick – Pastoral Care in Education
The study described in this article examines longer term perspectives on well-being and looks at the possible benefits of environmental action for happiness and positive functioning. We note interdependencies between personal and planetary well-being within respondents’ reflections and consider whether experiences of environmental action and its positioning as an act of altruism for the greater good might provide a source of positive feelings for young people not only at the time, but through subsequent recollection.

Comparing apples and pears?: a conceptual framework for understanding forms of outdoor learning
Waite, Bølling and Bentsen – Environmental Education Research
Using a conceptual model focused on purposes, aims, content, pedagogy, outcomes, and barriers, we review and interpret literature on two forms of outdoor learning. Despite different national educational and cultural contexts, English Forest Schools and Danish udeskole share several commonalities within a naturalistic/progressive pedagogical tradition; differences appear in the degree of integration within national educational systems.

Diverse aims, challenges and opportunities for assessing outdoor learning: a critical examination of three cases from practice
Waite, Rutter, Fowle and Edwards-Jones – International Journal of Primary, elementary and Early Years Education
In this article, we consider the term ‘assessment’, its relationship to ‘evaluation’ and the implications for outdoor learning in the light of changing educational policy on assessment in England. A small-scale empirical study of how assessment was practised by two primary teachers on a residential trip and two further cases in practice are used to examine how emphases in assessment are shaped by contexts. Finally, we reflect on how conceptual frameworks that integrate planning, pedagogy and assessment might support assessment and evaluation practice in outdoor learning in a new era of apparent ‘freedom’ for teachers.

Without Walls: A Discussion on the Place of Learning Outdoors in Primary Schools in England.
S Pickering, University of Worcester

Teaching Outdoors Creatively
Editor Stephen Pickering – Book
Teaching Outdoors Creatively offers guidance and a variety of exciting ideas to suit the full range of primary schools and locations. Underpinned by current research and practical experience, it investigates innovative approaches to working creatively with children beyond the classroom.

Stress in School. Some Empirical Hints on the Circadian Cortisol Rhythm of Children in Outdoor and Indoor Classes
U Dettweiler, C Becker, BH Auestad, P Simon, P Kirsch – International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
This prospective longitudinal survey compared the stress levels of students taught using an outdoor curriculum in a forest, with children in a normal school setting. The main effect in our measures was that the intervention had a steady decline of cortisol during the school day. This is in accordance with a healthy child’s diurnal rhythm, with a significant decline of cortisol from morning to noon. This effect is constant over the school year. The control group does not show this decline during either measurement day.

The Relationship between Neighbourhood Green Space and Child Mental Wellbeing Depends upon Whom You Ask: Multilevel Evidence from 3083 Children Aged 12–13 Years
Feng and Astell-Burt. International Journal of environmental research and public heath
Neighborhood greenspace is associated with better child mental wellbeing, but this relationship depends on who reports the data. Three groups (parents, teachers, and children) completed an assessment of the child’s mental wellbeing.  Children living in greener neighborhoods exhibited fewer signs of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and peer problems. The results, however, differed across the three groups, with parent reports showing the strongest association between neighborhood green space and child mental wellbeing.

Students’ well-being: PISA 2015
The report analyses pupils’ motivation to perform well in school, their relationships with peers and teachers, their home life and how they spend their time outside of school. The findings are based on a survey of 540,000 pupils in 72 participating Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and economies. The study found that pupils in the UK are among the least happy – ranking 38th out of the 48 OECD countries.


The second part will be published next week; and the complete report can be viewed here.

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