Children and young people’s engagement with nature

Children running on a path through bluebellsThis work aims to explore and summarise evidence about how children and young people experience nature, including trees and woodlands. It looks at how this contact with nature, whether through school activities and learning or in leisure time, can potentially lead to a wide range of health, wellbeing and learning benefits. It arises from an increasing concern that children are not directly experiencing nature and that this could lead to children missing out on the benefits provided by these interactions.

Research objectives

  1. To better understand how children and young people experience nature, including trees and woodlands
  2. Increase understanding of the issues that affect children’s contact with and experience of nature
  3. To identify barriers that may prevent children’s nature experiences
  4. To research children and nature issues in different contexts such as learning outdoors, different types of outdoor leisure, young people excluded from school, children on urban housing estates
  5. To disseminate key findings and guidance

A group about to set off mountain biking at a BME forest schoolResults so far

The work so far has involved:

  • Research into children’s contact with nature in Norway
  • Research on how mountain biking contributes to young people’s identity
  • Exploring the impacts of Forest School on children and young people
  • The role of outdoor learning for young people excluded from school – a woodland social enterprise approach
  • Reviewing the Forest Education Initiative
  • Understanding how children engage with a small urban woodland in London
  • Reviewing research evidence of the role of trees and woodlands in formal education

Status

The work in this area started in 2005 and current work and collaboration with Norwegian researchers started in 2012.

Related Products/Services

Social Research Services

Contact

Dr Liz O’Brien

Funders and partners

The work involves the following funders or partners :

  • Forestry Commission
  • Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)
  • New Economics Foundation
  • Plymouth University
  • Exeter University

Forestry Commission policy

The Forestry Commission Wood for Health strategy and Woods for Learning strategy recognises that exposure to woodlands and greenspace may help children with behavioural and emotional problems and highlights the importance of outdoor learning

The Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statements outlines that children should have the opportunity for outdoor learning

Forestry Commission England provides useful information and guidance to encourage and enable play for children in woodlands