Review: the role of trees and woods in formal education and learning

How do trees and woods help people to learn?

SummaryChildren working together at Forest SchoolYoung people clearing up a small London woodland

The UK government, other organisations and the general public are increasingly interested in using the natural environment for education and learning. Forest Research reviewed the latest studies on outdoor education, especially to assess the role of woods and forests and their positive impact on students.

Key findings

  • Governmental policy: despite general support for environmental based education and learning, policy varies between England, Wales and Scotland; only Wales makes provision of outdoor education a statutory duty in the early years
  • Support: broad support in the Forestry Commission and other organisations, with a number of specific policies designed to deliver education and learning to a range of audiences in a variety of formats
  • Variety: trees and woods are a context for formal (e.g. academic lessons or skills acquisition) and informal (e.g. self-led interpretation of sites, species or events) education and learning, largely for school aged children and young people, particularly those in the primary age group
  • Benefits: good evidence to suggest that trees and woods education and learning is likely to be beneficial, but the evidence base is limited in scope, breadth and reliability
  • Little evidence to compare education and learning in and about trees and woods with other outdoor or natural environments
  • Future research: impacts of different types of education provision on different populations; impacts of trees and woods education on educational outcomes and attainment; specific educational benefits of woodland environments; long-term and wider impacts (e.g. on health, environmental behaviours, employment, communities, etc)


Funders and partners

Commissioned and funded the Forestry Commission.


Liz O’Brien