Outdoor, self-directed, all weather nature immersion.
What the research says:
• In forest schools, participants have the opportunity to challenge themselves and reflect on their experiences. This allows them to develop self-awareness and self-regulation. They work on empathy by sharing and listening amongst peers. Overall, forest school students gain confidence and self-esteem because they’re the ones guiding their own learning (O’Brien & Murray 2007; Knight 2009).
• Resilience is the ability to cope and adapt to stressful or negative situations. Research has shown that simply being in nature reduces the impact of stress (Blackwell, 2015). This means children who spend more time outside have less stress to begin with.
• People who participate in forest schools demonstrate being more relaxed (Roe & Aspinall 2011).
• Children who attend forest school also become more independent because they lead their own learning. They learn to make decisions around risks (e.g. a slippery tree, a fire circle) and become resilient and self-reliant in the process (O’Brien & Murray 2007; Knight 2009).
• “As children experience more risky activities and terrain, they learn to determine for themselves whether something feels safe or not, rather than look externally to adults to decide this for them” (Forest School in Canada 2014, 40)
• Young people who attend forest school reap physical benefits in addition to social and emotional benefits. They show improved balance and coordination and quicker fine motor skills development (Fjortoft 2001).
• For children who do not do well in classroom settings, forest schools encourage curiosity and motivation to learn (O’Brien & Murray 2007; Knight 2009). Research shows forest schools help ADHD children learn. The Attention Restoration Theory supports this finding (Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan 2001).
• A four-year study from Norway examined the relationship between the amount of time young children attending daycare spent outdoors and their cognitive and behavioral development. This found that time spent outdoors in pre-school may support children’s development of attention skills (Ulset, Vitaro, Brendgen, Bekkus, & Borge, 2017).
• An international report draws together five key evidence reviews and a structured sample of further reports on children learning in natural environments (Mal- one & Waite, 2016). The authors identified the type of long-term impacts that these projects have on children’s quality of life. They placed a focus on impacts around ‘physical health and wellbeing and ‘character capabilities’ such as self-regulation, empathy, creativity, and innovation, and their capacity to be successful learners’ (ibid, p4).
• Fiennes et al. (2015) provides a systematic review of the evidence base relating to the effectiveness of outdoor learning. Conclusions in the review were that almost all outdoor learning had a positive effect on the defined outcomes, and that longer-term interventions were more effective, as well as those with good preparation and follow-up.
• Positive outcomes for children attending Forest School included an increase in well-being and academic development. Indicators of increased well-being were evident in changes in children’s self-regulation and resilience, which appeared to be supported by “emotional space” — defined as “the provision of a physical space and time in which the children are free to be themselves and express their emotions.” Results also included increased confidence for learning and connection to nature. These results were reflected in children’s increasing confidence outdoors and in having them recognized as “wild experts” at school. Positive results were also evident in academic outcomes. McCree, M., Cutting, R., Sherwin, D., (2018). The Hare and the Tortoise go to Forest School: Taking the scenic route to academic attainment via emotional wellbeing outdoors. Early Child Development and Care, 188(7), 980-996.
- Coyote’s Guide to Nature Connection, Jon Young
- The Nature Fix, Florence Williams
28 Main Road S #A
Hampden, ME 04444
Unceded Wabanaki Territory
Bear Camp | Steadhaven
559 Dickey Hill Road
Monroe, ME 04951
Unceded Wabanaki Territory