Summary of Evidence

Primary Reference Secondary Reference (quoted in primary) Main Point(s)
Wellbeing benefits from natural environments rich in wildlife: A literature review for The Wildlife Trusts. Dr Rachel Bragg, Dr Carly Wood, Dr Jo Barton and Professor Jules Pretty. School of Biological Sciences University of Essex November 2014 Dillon J, Rickinson M, Teamey K, Morris M, Young Choi M, Sanders D and Benefield P (2006). The value of outdoor learning: evidence from research in the UK and elsewhere. Social Sciences Review, 87: 107-111. In schools with environmentally focused curriculums attainment is 72% greater, with outdoor learning experiences allowing children to develop cognitive skills more effectively than classroom based learning

Kings College (2011). Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments. London: Kings College.

  Some key findings (quotes):
  • Students perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies and show greater motivation for studying science
  • A broad range of skills ranging from the technical to the social have been identified as outcomes of LINE, particularly when it is integrated with the everyday school curriculum 
  • Teachers benefit from LINE, becoming more enthusiastic about teaching and bringing innovative teaching strategies to the classroom 

Kings College (2011). Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments. London: Kings College.

Nundy, S. (2001), Raising achievement through the environment: the case for fieldwork and field centres. Fieldwork not only generates positive cognitive and affective learning amongst students, but this may be enhanced significantly compared to that achievable within a classroom environment

Kings College (2011). Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments. London: Kings College.

Randler, C., Ilg & Kern, J. (2005), Cognitive and emotional evaluation of an amphibian conservation program for elementary school students. Children aged 9-11 who had taken part in conservation action performed significantly better on achievement tests and expressed high interest and well-being and low anger, anxiety, and boredom compared with students who had learned about the same topic in the classroom

Kings College (2011). Understanding the diverse benefits of learning in natural environments. London: Kings College.

Ofsted (2008), Learning outside the classroom. How far should you go?   Learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development

The National Environmental Education & Training Foundation (2000), Environment-based Education - creating high performance schools and students.

Report of a case series of five schools in America that incorporate outdoor environmental education as a central focus of their academic program.

  Key findings:

  • Students learning in the natural environment perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies compared to other children in the district, state, and nation
  • Classroom discipline problems declined and motivation to learn increased
  • Students developed the ability to make connections and transfer their knowledge from familiar to unfamiliar contexts

Ofsted (2008), Learning outside the classroom. How far should you go?   

This report evaluated the impact of learning outside the classroom in 12 primary schools, 10 secondary schools, one special school, one pupil referral unit and three colleges across England where previous inspections had shown that curricular provision, in particular outside the classroom, was good, outstanding or improving rapidly.

  Key findings:
  • When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development. 
  • Learning outside the classroom was most successful when it was an integral element of long-term curriculum planning and closely linked to classroom activities. 
  • Learning outside the classroom can also help to combat under-achievement. Pupils whose behaviour in other circumstances had been reported as poor often responded well to involvement in high quality, stimulating activities outdoors.
  • The primary schools in the survey made better and more consistent use of their own buildings and grounds and the neighbouring area to support learning than the secondary schools. 
  • Too many residential and other visits considered during the survey had learning objectives which were imprecisely defined and not integrated sufficiently with activities in the classroom. This was particularly the case in primary schools. 
  • The schools in the survey relied very heavily on contributions from parents and carers to meet the costs of residential and other visits and had given very little thought to alternative ways of financing them. 
  • Of the schools and colleges visited, only three had evaluated the impact of learning outside the classroom on improving achievement, or monitored the take up of activities by groups of pupils and students. 
  • The vast majority in the sample were not able to assess the effectiveness, inclusiveness or value for money of such activities. 
  • The schools and colleges had worked hard and successfully to overcome the barriers to learning outside the classroom, including those relating to health and safety, pupils’ behaviour and teachers’ workload

Wilderness Schooling: the impact of an outdoor education programme on language, behaviour and attainment outcomes in primary school pupils. Quibell, T.* & Charlton, J.* (Under review, 2015)

  Short-term interventions (6 weeks, Wilderness Schooling) which present Ofsted-ready lessons in the core curriculum of maths, science and English to British children (n=223) doubles the rate of progress in reading and English attainment, and significantly (33%) increases the rate of progress in maths, compared to children (n=217) who received normal school interventions. These effects are long-lasting (12-18 week post-intervention) and close the attainment gap between children often attributed to different socio-economic status.

Wild Wiltshire Year 2 Research Report Prepared for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust March 2016 Authors: Dr Mel McCree, Director Free Range Creativity (corresponding author) Dr Roger Cutting, Plymouth University Co-investigator

Interim independent assessment of a 3 year longitudinal study into the impact of outdoor learning on academic outcomes and well-being of 11 disadvantaged children from one school in Wiltshire

  Findings:

  • Suggestion that after 2 years cohort attendance % has changed from being worse than the whole school, FSM children at the school and the national average to being 1-2% better
  • The WW cohort have made good progress relative to their peers within the school (e.g. Pupil Premium Group). Writing attainment for the WW cohort is especially significant in their shift from ‘emerging’ to ‘expected’ progress (27% compared to 11%), with relatively slower progress in reading (9% compared to 5%). In mathematics their performance has improved but not at an equivalent rate (9% compared to 13%)
  • Overall conclusions will be available at the end of the third and final year 2015-16

Sigman, A. (2007) Agricultural Literacy: Giving concrete children food for thought.

  Children exposed to nature scored higher on concentration and self-discipline; improved their awareness, reasoning and observational skills; did better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies; were better at working in teams; and showed improved behaviour overall.

Engaging and Learning with the Outdoors – The Final Report of the Outdoor Classroom in a Rural Context Action Research Project April 2005 Justin Dillon, King’s College London Marian Morris, NFER Lisa O’Donnell, NFER Alan Reid, University of Bath Mark Rickinson William Scott, University of Bath

  Children learning in the natural environment learn differently, experiencing improvements in four specific ways

  • Cognitive Impacts (greater knowledge and understanding)
  • Affective Impacts (attitudes, values, beliefs and self-perceptions)
  • Interpersonal and Social Impacts (communication skills, leadership and teamwork)
  • Physical and Behavioural Impacts (fitness, personal behaviours and social actions)

Pretty et al (2009) Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways. Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society Occasional Paper 2009-02: University of Essex.

  Developments in knowledge and understanding arise from across a range of cognitive domains because outdoor natural space provide additional opportunities for critical thinking, creative inquiry and problem solving; fundamental life skills permitting students to ‘think critically about issues pertinent to their lives and the world outside the classroom’.

Every Child Outdoors (RSPB, 2010)

ETI (2010) Effective Practice in Education for Sustainable Development in a sample of primary, post-primary and special schools in Northern Ireland. Bangor, Co Down: Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland. Out-of-classroom learning opportunities provide the learners with inspiring, sensory and memorable experiences that bring the curriculum to life in an inclusive way. They recommend that schools need to provide a range of opportunities for out-of-classroom learning.

Lieberman, G.A. and L. Hoody. Closing the achievement gap: using the environment as an integrating context for learning. Sacramento, CA: CA State Education and Environment Roundtable, 1998.

  Study supported by Pew Foundation looking at EIC (Environment as an Integrating Context) for learning in 40 schools across 13 US States. Results for schools with outdoor education programs show better performance on standardised measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies. Classroom behaviour showed improvements as well

Education and the Environment: Creating Standards-Based Programs in Schools and Districts by Gerald A. Lieberman (Author), Richard Louv (Foreword). Published by Harvard Education Press

  Huge amount of material which updates previous study from US.

Taylor, A.F., Kuo, F.E. & Sullivan, W.C. (2002). Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 49-63

Wells, Nancy M. (2000). At Home with Nature, Effects of “Greenness” on Children’s Cognitive Functioning, Environment and Behavior, 32(6), 775-795

  Children with

  • symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature 
  • views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores 

Pretty et al (2009) Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways. Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society Occasional Paper 2009-02: University of Essex.

Berman M C, Jonides J and Kaplan S. 2008. The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science 19, 1207-1212

Rickinson M, Dillon J, Teamey K, Morris M, Choi M, Sanders D and Benefield P. 2004. A review of research on outdoor learning. Field Studies Council, Shrewsbury

Outdoor learning lead to long term gains for attitudes, beliefs, self-perceptions interpersonal social skills, and memory creation and retention

Substantial evidence exists to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom

Dillon, J. & Dickie, I. 2012. Learning in the Natural Environment: Review of social and economic benefits and barriers. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 092.

Learning outside the classroom in the Natural Environment (LINE) encompasses a range of provision, including:

  • activities within a school’s or college’s own buildings, grounds or immediate area;
  • educational visits organised within the school day; and
  • residential visits that take place during the school week, weekends or holidays

 

  Key Findings

  • The diversity of benefits of LINE offer a potentially compelling rational for increasing access to LINE for all young people. However, as yet, the findings have not been assembled into a coherent case targeted at key decision makers. 
  • By far the greatest proportion of research findings focus on the impact of LINE on participants‟ knowledge and understanding. Specifically, students perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies and show greater motivation for studying science. 
  • The estimated annual value of environmental knowledge in 2010 was £2.1 billion (£1.6 billion for GCSE subjects and £0.5 billion for A-Level), to which LINE can make a vital and necessary contribution. 
  • A broad range of skills ranging from the technical to the social have been identified as outcomes of LINE, particularly when it is integrated with the everyday school curriculum.
  • Environmental-based education makes other school subjects rich and relevant and gets apathetic students excited about learning. 
  • Links between contact with the environment and personal health are well-established. Studies have shown that exposure to the natural environment can lower the effects of various mental health issues that can make it difficult for students to pay attention in the classroom. 
  • Hands-on contact with nature is not only essential for protecting the environment but appears to be a means of cultivating community and enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of children and adults alike. 
  • Structured activities, such as those commonly occurring in sustainability education, are powerful catalysts for creating a stronger sense of community - both within and beyond school boundaries. 
  • Teachers benefit from LINE, becoming more enthusiastic about teaching and bringing innovative teaching strategies to the classroom4. Schools also benefit from teachers taking more ownership and leadership in school change. 

Rickinson, M., Hunt, A., Rogers, J. & Dillon, J. 2012. School Leader and Teacher Insights into Learning Outside the Classroom in Natural Environments. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 097.

This report summarises a study of 38 teachers and school leaders in 17 primary, 15 secondary and 6 special schools across England with widely varying levels of outdoor learning. It focuses on their views of outdoor learning and their ideas about the Natural Connections Demonstration Project.

  Key findings

Views on LINE

  • The way teachers and school leaders understand and approach LINE is individual and appeared to be influenced by very local factors - including their own educational experiences and values, the needs of their students and their school context. 
  • There were five main ways in which outdoor learning was described: as nature study and fieldwork, as sport and outdoor adventurous activities, as learning anything outdoors, as getting out into the world and as outdoor vocational courses. 
  • Interviewees articulated a range of rationales for outdoor learning All interviewees recognised and could describe a range of benefits for outdoor learning, with a positive impact on ‘improving motivation, behaviour and self confidence’ being reported as the key driver. This was seen as particularly important in special schools, and for groups of children with additional learning needs or some level of disaffection within mainstream schools. 

 

Current Outdoor Learning Activity

  • There were clear differences in the extent to which different outdoor learning contexts were being used. Outdoor learning within school grounds was found to be either well developed or developing in most schools. Day trips and residential trips to distant outdoor sites, such as outdoor activity centres (especially primary schools) and field centres (especially secondary schools), was also common in most schools. In sharp contrast, use of local green spaces just beyond the school boundaries for outdoor learning activities was very limited, although teachers felt there were opportunities to use these spaces where appropriate. 
  • There were marked differences in the nature of activities at primary, secondary and special schools 
  • Differences between schools in the types of outdoor learning activities seemed to reflect very local factors. 
  • Differences were not related to whether schools were in an urban or rural setting, to the amount of outdoor space available on site or locally, to the socio-demographic nature of their catchment, to Ofsted grading, or to membership or participation in outdoor learning related national schemes. Instead, variation seemed to be related to very local factors such as school context and individual teacher confidence and competence which is consistent with the findings reported by Dillon & Dickie (2012). 
  • All schools reported that they wanted to do more outdoor learning if this was facilitated in an appropriate way, and were able to describe some very local barriers and how these might be overcome.