Learning outside for just one lesson a week boosts learning and behaviour, say researchers

Learning outdoors for just one lesson a week boosts learning and behaviour in primary school children, researchers have said.

The study, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts and carried out by the Institute of Education at UCL, is one of the largest  into the effects of outdoor activities on children’s wellbeing and views about nature.

The research found that children’s wellbeing increased after they had spent time connecting with nature and that they gained educational benefits as well as wider personal and social benefits.

As a result, the Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to ensure that at least one hour per school day is spent outdoors learning and playing in wild places.

Researchers at UCL said children have “lost touch” with nature and that the benefits on the group of 450 primary school children from 12 areas in the UK were plain to see.

81 per cent of children reported having better relationships with their teachers after learning outside, 79 per cent said they had better relationships with their classmates and 79 per cent said the experience helped with their school work.

Additionally, teachers and Wildlife Trust educators were also observed by the UCL research team and interviewed about their experiences.

The outdoor activities involved children learning about nature, such as identifying plants and trees, reflecting on their important role in human lives and considering the needs of wildlife habitats.

Professor Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, UCL, said: “Each generation seems to have less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one. We owe it to all young people to reverse this trend – for their sakes, for our sakes and for nature’s sake.”

Nigel Doar, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of strategy added: “This research shows that children experience profound and diverse benefits through regular contact with nature. Contact with the wild improves children’s wellbeing, motivation and confidence. The data also highlights how children’s experiences in and around the natural world led to better relationships with their teachers and class-mates.

“The Wildlife Trusts believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife in daily life and we’re calling on government to recognise the multiple benefits of nature for children – and ensure that at least one hour per school day is spent outdoors learning and playing in wild places.”

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