This is a recent round up by Natural England 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.

Short-Term Exposure to Nature and Benefits for Students’ Cognitive Performance: a Review
L Mason, A Ronconi, S Scrimin, F Pazzaglia – Educational Psychology Review
The aim of this review is to understand the context in which short-term passive exposures to greenness occur, how cognitive performance is measured, and the conditions under which cognitive benefits emerge at various educational levels. The review shows that in 12 out of the 14 studies, across educational levels, cognitive benefits emerge in terms of directed attention restoration from mental fatigue due to contact with nature. A no-cost opportunity to sustain students’ cognition is a break in a green environment after mentally demanding activities.

Schoolyards count: How Ontario’s schoolyards measure up for health, physical activity and environmental learning
K Gallagher-Mackay, C Corso, T Shubat – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Schoolyards Count is based on data collection by citizen scientists using a validated, reliable audit tool. Auditors assessed schoolyards across four domains: provision for sport and play, active transportation, environmental opportunities and aesthetics and maintenance

Do English primary school inspection reports mention outdoor learning and if mentioned, how does the inspectorate represent outdoor learning in the reports?
O Diggory – Masters Thesis, University of Cumbria
This research explores whether outdoor learning is recognised by Ofsted in their inspection reports of state-maintained, mainstream English primary schools. From the sample analysed it was found that 42% of reports mentioned outdoor learning. It was found that most comments (71%) made in inspection reports about outdoor learning related to the Early Years Foundation Stage. Further consideration of the data collected provided insight into the way the inspectorate in England presents outdoor learning in reports. The comments were found to be positive with some neutral comments made. Negative comments about outdoor learning were not identified although criticism regarding the state of outdoor learning areas was a theme.

Early childhood environmental education: A systematic review of the research literature. 
Ardoin & Bowers – Educational Research Review.
A systematic review of the literature on early childhood environmental education (ECEE) found that related programs generally promote environmental literacy, cognitive development, and social and emotional development. Other reported outcomes include improved physical development and language and literacy development. Evidence of the effectiveness of ECEE programs in achieving desired outcomes was overwhelmingly strong.

Exploring outdoor play: A mixed-methods study of the quality of preschool play environments and teacher perceptions of risky play. 
LeMasters & Vandermaas-Peeler – Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
This research involving over 50 early childhood teachers investigated opportunities for risky outdoor play in preschool environments. Multiple restrictions to risky play were identified, including limited acceptance of risky play among early childhood teachers, safety regulations, and a lack of affordances for risky play in the preschools’ playgrounds. These results highlight the need for education about the value of risky play at the level of policy developers and teachers.  

Children’s agency and action in nature preschool: A tale of two programs. 
Konerman et al.  – Children, Youth and Environments
This report describes two sustainability projects – one in Australia and one in the United States – in which preschool children played an active role in making changes critical to the regeneration of natural environments in their local community. In each case, the children demonstrated empathy for non-human species and viewed themselves as capable of making meaningful contributions to the larger community. 

Outdoor Environmental Education in Higher Education
Book – includes Chapters on

  • Outdoor Therapy: Benefits, Mechanisms and Principles for Activating Health, Wellbeing, and Healing in Nature
  • Nature Connection

The importance of recognising and promoting independence in young children: the role of the environment and the Danish forest school approach
A Cerino – Education
This report offers insight into a reflective and critical practitioner’s role in carefully planning an environment that reflects young children’s need for independence. Education as an agent of liberation is the key to the child
obtaining that freedom and achieving independence. It is argued that liberation can only be achieved when an effective pedagogy that considers children’s perception and ideas is implemented Danish society’s values and customs have led to the development of the Forest School approach, in which kindergartens use the outdoors in a unique and cultural way. Forest School provides the ideal environment to nurture independence and promote children’s well-being.

The essential guide to forest school and nature pedagogy
John Cree & Marina Robb – Book
This book is a complete guide to Forest School provision and Nature Pedagogy and it examines the models, methods, worldviews and values that underpin teaching in nature. Cree and Robb show how a robust Nature Pedagogy can support learning, behaviour, and physical and emotional wellbeing, and, importantly, a deeper relationship with the natural world. They offer an overview of what a Forest School programme could look like through the year. The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy provides ‘real-life’ examples from a variety of contexts, sample session plans and detailed guidance on using language, crafting and working with the natural world.

Creativity and outdoor education in primary schools: a review of the literature
M Guerra, FV Villa, V Glăveanu – RELAdEI. Revista Latinoamericana de Educación Infantil
The purpose of this paper is to examine the connections between creativity and outdoor education in primary schools by reviewing the studies published over the past ten years in order to build a framework for this emerging field of research. The search highlighted the importance of the following factors in supporting possible links amongst the reviewed topics: similarities in contextual features, use of materials, need for perseverance, the role of explorative approach, the importance of play and “slow time”, the role of adults, and the value of the theory of affordances. In particular, the latter had potential to build a theoretical framework within both of the topics. Potential implications and future directions are also proposed.

A Manifesto for Education Environmental Sustainability
BERA publication
The final manifesto from the BERA-funded research commission on environmental sustainability calls for sustainability to become a key feature of the curriculum, inspections and other accountability systems in order to enable schools to make environmentally friendly choices.The manifesto is the culmination of the commission’s work which involved online workshops with more than 200 young people, teachers and teacher educators.

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