By Rebecca Lovell, Liz O’Brien, Roz Owen
The Research Agency of the Forestry Commission, 2010
This review explored research relating to education and learning outdoors and particularly that which take s place in, or focuses on, tree, woods and forests. A desk-based review was undertaken supplemented by a small number of interviews.
Tree, wood and forest (TWF) education and learning (E&L) is any activity which takes place in, or focuses on, the specific environment or context of TWF and which provides opportunities for the participant to engage with or learn about those environments. Many outdoor and TWF focused activities which are not explicitly designed to have E&L objectives may have relevant learning outcomes. For instance programmes or activities which aim to increase levels of activity in woodland settings may result in greater engagement with and knowledge of TWF.
The Forestry Commission in England, Scotland and Wales, is one of a number of organisations, which delivers a wide range of E&L opportunities and activities in woods and forests for all ages. The Forestry Commission in each country delivers E&L through the following mechanisms:
Direct formal provision of E&L: curriculum and non curriculum based, forest apprenticeships and work placements.Facilitation: partnerships such as the Forest Education Initiative, grants and funding such as the Forest School Woodland Improvement Grant, teacher/educator support and trainingResource provision: physical resources and educational materialsInterpretation: led visits and self use interpretationPlay: provision of play activities and opportunitiesCampaigns and events: through national media or schoolsProjects/programmes where E&L is often an outcome but not a specific focus of the project e.g. health projects, volunteering, ‘friends of’ groups.
The focus of the research identified for this review has primarily been on more formal provision of outdoor E&L and on children and young people. Less is known about E&L associated specifically with trees and woods; what there is has predominantly focused on Forest School. Much of the research has explored personal, social and emotional development rather than specific educational outcomes.
Evidence from this review suggests that outdoor learning may result in:
improved personal and interpersonal skills including communication and teamworkthe accumulation of social capital, in particular fostering pride, belonging and involvement in the community more positive attitudes regarding the natural environmentthe acquisition of academic skills and knowledge.
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