Learning outside the classroom contributes significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.
Ofsted 'Learning Outside the Classroom' report, 2008
advantages of outdoor learning
The evidence for the benefits of outdoor learning is overwhelming and growing all the time. One of the largest scale studies ever done was conducted recently by Natural England over four years on behalf of the government. The study looked at over 40,000 children from 125 schools and found that children who learn outdoors are happier, healthier and more motivated to learn. Read the full report here.
Alarmingly, the likelihood of a child visiting any green space at all has halved in a generation. Now more than ever it is time to let our children experience the joys of the outdoors. Here are some further areas and research that demonstrate the importance of forest school learning.
Being outdoors all day and more physically fit naturally assist with children's health. Children who learn outdoors regularly have been found to have fewer allergies as a result. Blackwell (2015) also found that long term forest school programmes had a positive impact on children's mental health and general wellbeing.
Study after study has shown that children's ability to socialise and interact with others can be improved by learning outdoors. Herholdt (2003) found that children use more complex language and construct longer sentences outside. This is because children in the outdoors are usually in groups or pairs, and this interaction, along with using real life tools and first-hand experiences, increases language development significantly.
Mygind (2007) found that mean activity levels were twice as high in a forest school compared with a traditional school setting. Boldemann (2006) also found that children who have access to larger outdoor environments have a greater step count and move more than those in traditional settings. These activity levels develop vital muscle tone and increase weight-controlling hormones. Ejbye-Ernst (2014) found that learning in nature lead to greater strength, flexibility, co-ordination and concentration.
Resilience and behavioural improvements
Having worked in education for 20 plus years, our team has seen first hand the transformative benefits of nature on children who are displaying negative behaviours. Countless studies back up this observation. Biddle & Asare (2011) found a positive correlation between physical activity and the students behaviour in the classroom, creativity, IQ and general school performance. Bogner (1998) tested a long-established outdoor ecological programme with 700 students in a national park in Germany. He reported that the programme explicitly provoked favorable shifts in individual behavior, both actual and intended.
Dietrich et al (2002) found that playing in nature increased linguistic skills, as they used more inquiring and explorative language. O'Brien (2009) and her team also studied twenty-four children from seven schools in Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. They were observed over an eight-month period as they attended Forest School. Improvements in the children's language and communication, confidence, motivation and concentration, and physical skills were recorded. Children have been shown to use more complex language and construct longer sentences outdoors.
Little Foxes Forest School was formed after our team saw how learning outdoors can ignite children's enthusiasm and curiosity for learning. We repeatedly saw children with behavioural difficulties thrive in the forest, and watched in wonder as children generated deep learning experiences from their environment. In a parliamentary report by the Committee of Education and Skills into benefits of Outdoor Education (2010) it was found that education outside the classroom is of significant benefit to pupils. We hope you'd like to join us on this journey to connect children back to nature.