Research

A marvellous opportunity for children to learn – A participatory evaluation of Forest School in England and Wales

Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment. The new economics foundation (nef) and Forest Research began working in partnership to evaluate Forest School in 2002. This work involved two phases. Phase 1 was undertaken in Wales and developed a methodology for capturing the link between Forest School activities and their impact on individual children. Phase 2 built on this work and tracked a small number of children in England over an eight-month period. This publication describes both phases of the evaluation and presents the results of the evaluation. The key features of Forest School were identified as: the use of a woodland setting – a high ratio of adults to pupils – learning linked to the National Curriculum and Foundation-Stage objectives – the freedom to explore using multiple senses – regular contact for the children with Forest School over a significant period of time. The participatory action-research approach taken brought together the experience and knowledge of key stakeholders to discuss the impacts of Forest School on the children involved. From these discussions a selfappraisal template was developed for use in the field so that practitioners could track children against a number of positive outcomes. In Phase 2 of the work, eight themes emerged from the analysis of the data. Six were related to the impacts on children in terms of confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills, and knowledge and understanding. The other two themes were related to wider impacts: practitioners gaining a new perspective on the children, and a ripple effect as children took home their experiences and told family and friends about what they had learnt

A Practitioner’s Guide – Norfolk County Council

A practical document outlining ethos, history and benefits of forest schools.

A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care

The prevalence of mental ill-health is on the rise in the UK with an estimated one in four people experiencing a ‘significant’ mental health problem in any one year. With the prescription of anti-depressants at record levels and a huge demand for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and other psychological therapies, health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options for cost effective services for mental health. At the same time there is increasing recognition of the importance of nature and place as a determinant of individuals’ mental health. Nature-based interventions are operating throughout the UK, working with a wide range of vulnerable groups helping to positively benefit health and wellbeing outcomes.

These nature-based interventions (also called green care and ecotherapy) could be part of a new solution for mental health care. However increasing awareness and access to these interventions is challenging given the number of organisations delivering nature-based projects and services, the variety of terms and language used to describe their activity and benefits and the variation in delivery models which use different impact measures. This research seeks to explore these issues and set out the steps required to enable a greater number of nature-based interventions to be commissioned in mental health care.

Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning

Learning need not take place solely within educational buildings. The outdoor environment has massive
potential for learning. We are extremely fortunate to have such rich urban and rural environments on our
doorsteps and our children and young people’s learning experiences can be enhanced by maximising
the potential of the outdoors. The Scottish Government is keen to see all our children and young people
having positive learning experiences in a variety of settings. This is why we are investing in the production
and promotion of guidance to support opportunities presented by the new school curriculum for learning
in the outdoors. The guidance makes it clear that the outdoor environment offers motivating, exciting,
different, relevant and easily accessible activities from pre-school years through to college

Disconnect from nature and its effect on health and well-being

The purpose of this document is to inform NHM colleagues about research on the
public’s connectedness to nature and its link to health and well-being. The Museum
is well-placed to address some of the issues and opportunities arising from this
research. This paper will also set out the implications for practice that will help inform
and shape future Museum projects.
This document is not designed to prove a link to health or well-being, nor measure connectedness to nature. It is designed to understand the current or completed projects and theories and help staff think about how the Museum fits within them. This is a living document that will be updated regularly with any new literature or research

Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship

Do experiences with nature – from wilderness backpacking to plants in a preschool, to a wetland lesson on frogs—promote learning? Until recently, claims outstripped evidence on this question. But the field has matured, not only substantiating previously unwarranted claims but deepening our understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between nature and learning. Hundreds of studies now bear on this question, and converging evidence strongly suggests that experiences of nature boost academic learning, personal development, and environmental stewardship. This brief integrative review summarizes recent advances and the current state of our understanding.

Engagement with nature and Covid-19 restrictions Survey 2021: Key Results

This summary report provides results from the Nature and Covid survey undertaken by Forest Research in 2021, as a follow up to a similar survey in 2020. The surveys undertaken in 2020 (n=2,115) and 2021 (n=398) are not directly comparable statistically as the 2020 survey asked about pre-Covid activity and during Covid activity. However, a small number of people (n=33) completed both surveys, and these were matched to explore change over both surveys.

ETI publish a thematic report on Pre-school and Foundation Stage: Delivering the Curriculum Outdoors

ETI have produced a thematic paper on delivering the curriculum outdoors in pre-school and foundation stage classes. The report provides information on the effective delivery of the curriculum through outdoor learning within early year’s classes in pre-schools and FS classes in primary schools. It also highlights some of the successes and challenges reported by staff and reflects the range of external support that is available.

FOREST AND NATURE SCHOOL IN CANADA: A Head, Heart, Hands Approach to Outdoor Learning

The role of this guide is to help educators and the communities that surround and support them, (such as administrators, facilities staff, parents, licensing officials, etc.), to learn more about Forest and Nature School (FNS) and what this model of education offers Canadian children. As we define Forest and Nature School, dive into the ethos and learning theories embedded in this model of education, and share resources with you we hope you will feel inspired to look into Forest and Nature School more deeply.

Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain

As Forest School has become more widespread throughout Britain an understanding is needed of its impact. This paper outlines a two-phase evaluation project undertaken in Wales and England from 2002 to 2005. The evaluation was undertaken through a partnership between Forest Research and the New Economics Foundation. A methodology was developed to explore the impacts of Forest School on children and this was then used to track changes in 24 children at three case study areas over an 8-month period. The research highlights that children can benefit in a range of ways. Six themes emerged from the data of the positive impacts on children in terms of confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills and knowledge and understanding. Two further themes highlight the wider impacts of Forest School on teachers, parents, and the extended family. Contact with the natural environment can be limited for children and young people in contemporary society due to concerns about safety outdoors and issues of risk and liability. Forest School provides an important opportunity for children to gain access to and become familiar with woodlands on a regular basis, while learning academic and practical skills. The constructivist theory of learning seems to be particularly suited to the Forest School approach as children make meaning from their direct experiences. The participatory action research approach taken in this study promoted reflective practice amongst the stakeholders involved and provided them with a sense of ownership of the study, as well as an opportunity to learn from each other.

Forest School for Wellbeing

The Breeze Project was conceptualised by Harriet Menter, Scotswood Garden, as a targeted project to support children and young people (CYP) who struggle in the classroom due to social and emotional difficulties. Over the last 3 years we have worked with five schools (one first, two primary and two secondary special schools) with CYP whose social and emotional difficulties stop them from achieving their full potential. The CYP have attended FS sessions once a week for between four months and two and a half years (term time only). The sessions are planned, delivered and evaluated by the Forest School leader and trainer from Scotswood Garden, together with school staff who undertake the training. The project has been evaluated by Newcastle University and has been found to have a significant impact on the CYP’s wellbeing which is why we are sharing our learning with other schools.

Forest School: evidence for restorative health benefits in young people

Funded by Forestry Commission and the Economic and Social Research Council. Based on research by Jenny Roe, Peter Aspinall and Catharine Ward Thompson (Edinburgh College of Art).

Forest Schools and environmental attitudes: A case study of children aged 8–11 years

There is growing evidence that children in the UK are suffering from a lack of engagement with nature and the outdoor environment. This paper investigates the attitudes of children towards the natural environment and focuses on Forest School programmes as a mechanism to promote a “pro-environmental” attitude. The study identified that there was a statistically significant difference in environmental attitude between groups of children that had participated in a Forest Schools programme and those that had not participated, with children who have taken part in Forest Schools demonstrating a more pro-environmental attitude. Whilst it is recognised that Forest Schools may not be the only factor influencing these attitudes, this is still an important finding that adds to the overall benefits of participation in Forest Schools programmes.

How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study

A major study into children’s exercise published in medical journal BMJ Open Researchers from University College London strapped accelerometers (basically a souped-up pedometer) to six and a half thousand children aged 7 to 8, measuring their activity over a week. – Whilst 51% of the children were getting the hour of exercise per day recommended by the government, 49% weren’t. – Exactly half of the kids in the study were sedentary for at least 6.4 hours a day.- Greenspace is explicitly mentioned in the report as a factor in improving children’s activity levels.

Learning in the Natural Environment: Review of social and economic benefits and barriers

The Natural Environment White Paper The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2011) sets out the need to strengthen the connection between people and nature, and gives an explicit call for every child in England to be given the opportunity to experience and learn about the natural environment. To help achieve this ambition, Government sets out several key reforms which include a commitment to removing challenges and increasing teachers and schools abilities to teach outdoors.

Links between natural environment and obesity

This briefing note is part of a series that summarises evidence of the relationships between the
natural environment and a range of outcomes. This briefing focuses on links between the natural
environment and obesity.

Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment The national survey on people and the natural environment

This report presents the headline findings of the MENE survey in relation to children (aged under 16) for the year from March 2018 to February 2019. Analysis of historic children survey data (since 2013/14) and comparisons with the adults (over 16) MENE dataset are included as appropriate.

Natural Childhood Report

In his Natural Childhood report supported by the National Trust, naturalist, author and TV producer Stephen Moss charts years of academic research and a steady stream of surveys on the subject, highlighting how a generation of children is finally losing touch with the natural world

Natural Connections Demonstration Project 2012-2016

This report presents the key findings from the Natural Connections Demonstration Project, which identified that the fundamental challenges to learning outside the classroom in the natural environment (LINE) in schools were local and revolved around a lack of teacher confidence in teaching outside and fragmentation of LINE service provision. These underpinned the more traditionally cited challenges of curriculum pressures, concern about risks and cost. This and other evidence was used by Natural England and a wide range of partner organisations to shape the design of the demonstration project. The project was funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England and Historic England, commissioned by Natural England, and delivered in South West England by Plymouth University. Natural Connections was intended to:
Stimulate the demand from schools and teachers for learning outside the classroom in the local natural environment.
Support schools and teachers to build learning outside the classroom in the local natural environment into their planning and practices.
Stimulate the supply of high quality learning outside the classroom in the natural environment services for schools and teachers.

Natural Thinking

The RSPB is finding out how connected to nature the UK’s children are. The report includes a questionaire which could be used at the start and end of a Forest School programme.

Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective

A growing body of empirical evidence is revealing the value of nature experience for mental health. With rapid urbanization and declines in human contact with nature globally, crucial decisions must be made about how to preserve and enhance opportunities for nature experience. Here, we first provide points of consensus across the natural, social, and health sciences on the impacts of nature experience on cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and other dimensions of mental health. We then show how ecosystem service assessments can be expanded to include mental health, and provide a heuristic, conceptual model for doing so.

Outdoor Learning: Practical guidance, ideas and support for teachers and practitioners in Scotland

Wonderful publication taking teachers through the steps in developing an outdoor curriculum.

Practitioner Experiences of Forest School – McCree Mel PhD Thesis 2014

The aim of this thesis is to investigate the situated subjectivities of the experiences of Forest School (FS) practitioners, in their journeys from training to initial practice. The research explores the impact of FS training, environmental and socio-cultural influences upon the practitioners and how their practices adapt in context. Eight in-depth case studies of FS trainee practitioners were undertaken over a period of two years (2010-12) using multiple qualitative methods. The analysis is in three parts; on practitioner identities, approaches and contexts.

Rain or shine: Swedish Forest Schools

In October 2008 I had the opportunity to visit Lidingo Island, the birthplace of I Ur och Skur – Swedish forest schools. I visited several forest schools in and near Stockholm and met more than 30 teachers who work in these schools, along with several parents.
Background
Skogsmulle was a concept developed by Gosta Frohm in 1957. He was involved at a national level with the Association for Promotion of Outdoor Life (Friluftsframjandet) and came from a military background. “Skog” means “wood” and “Mulle” is a fictional character who helps children learn to love and care for nature. It is estimated that 1 in 4 Swedes have attended Skogsmulle activities in their childhood. Friluftsframjandet offer comprehensive training for adults wishing to become Skogsmulle leaders lasting a minimum of four days

Speech and Language Development in a Forest School Environment: An Action Research Project

Within England, there is an emerging increase in the number of Forest School sites that are available for children to access from early years settings. This research, as part of a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies, studies a forest school environment and analyses what impact the natural environment had on a group of 3- and 4-year-olds’ speech and language.