We all know that getting outdoors is a great way for children to get some exercise, take a break from computer games and burn off their energy.
And now the Wildlife Trusts are calling for every child to have a one hour nature boost every day, as part of the school curriculum.
Research by the Institute of Education on the impact of nature on primary school children
Commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts, researchers at the Institute of Education at University College London studied 451 primary school children aged between 8 and 9 across 12 areas across England, between 2017-2019.
The children took part over the course of several weeks, completing surveys before and after each activity. This was to evaluate the impact that experiencing nature has on children.
Teachers, Wildlife Trust educators and 199 of the children were also observed by the UCL research team, who interviewed them about their experiences.
Children’s health increases following contact with nature
The research found that after spending time connecting with nature, the children’s personal wellbeing and overall health increased. They also demonstrated high levels of enjoyment and a greater connection to nature.
During the study, each child took part in various Wildlife Trust-led activities, where they identified plants and trees, reflected on how nature plays a part in our lives, and considered the needs of wildlife habitats.
The benefits to children of spending more time outdoors
The study also found that being outdoors offered various educational, personal and social benefits:
- 90% of children felt they learned something new about the natural world.
- 79% felt that their experience could help their school work.
- After their activities 84% of children felt that they were capable of doing new things when they tried.
- 79% of children reported feeling more confident in themselves.
- 81% agreed that they had better relationships with their teachers.
- 79% reported better relationships with their class-mates.
Call for children to spend more time outside during the school day
Following the publication of the final report of this work, entitled ‘Nature Nurtures Children’ the Wildlife Trusts are calling on the government to recognise the multiple benefits of nature for children by ensuring that at least one hour of the school day is spent outdoors learning and in wild places.
Nigel Doar, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of strategy, says:
“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.”
Professor Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, UCL, agrees and says:
“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.”