New report shows how nature nurtures children

Helena Dolby

The Wildlife Trusts call for every child to have a daily one-hour nature boost.

The Wildlife Trusts commissioned a study by the Institute of Education at UCL to evaluate the impact that experiencing nature has upon children. The study focused on over 450 primary school children and the effects of Wildlife Trust-led activities on their wellbeing. This is one of the largest studies into the effects of outdoor activities on children’s wellbeing and views about nature.

Overall, the research revealed that children’s wellbeing increased after they had spent time connecting with nature: the children showed an increase in their personal wellbeing and health over time; they showed an increase in nature connection and demonstrated high levels of enjoyment.

The children also gained educational benefits as well as wider 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
Girl and boy building a den

Adrian Clarke

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.

“The Wildlife Trusts believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience the joy of wildlife in daily life and we’re calling on government to recognise the multiple benefits of nature for children – and ensure that at least one hour per school day is spent outdoors learning and playing in wild places.”

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) works in a wide range of ways to teach children about the natural world to ensure that wildlife remains a priority for future generations. We offer opportunities for young people to become enthused and informed about wildlife through our schools programme, outreach visits and nature clubs.

BBOWT has five environmental education centres that cater for almost 12,000 school children annually:

Woolley Firs, near Maidenhead, is set on a 300 year-old farm and nature reserve. The education centre is in a renovated barn full of exciting resources, and there are fantastic outdoor learning spaces in our woodland and meadows.

A private area at Windsor Great Park provides indoor and outdoor classrooms for inspirational and exciting activities. Fantastic learning opportunities are to be had in forest and grassland.

The Nature Discovery Centre, near Thatcham, is on a beautiful reserve teeming with wildlife. The lakes, woodlands, grassland and reedbeds are a fascinating place to visit year-round. With high quality indoor and outdoor spaces, sessions are enjoyable, inspiring, exciting and fun.

College Lake, near Tring, was created on the site of an old chalk quarry. Whatever the season, it is teeming with wildlife, and is the ideal place to visit for a day of learning outside the classroom.

Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre is a beautiful 19 acre nature reserve with woodland, meadow and ponds. It is a haven for wildlife and an exhilarating green space for pupils to enjoy.

primary school pond dipping

Penny Dixie

Our education programmes take a ‘head, heart and hands’ approach to teaching knowledge and understanding of the connections, cycles and needs of life
Liz Shearer
BBOWT

“There has never been a more important time to take children outdoors to enjoy and reconnect with the natural world,” says BBOWT’s Head of People Engagement, Liz Shearer.

“Our education programmes take a ‘head, heart and hands’ approach to teaching knowledge and understanding of the connections, cycles and needs of life.

“We provide high-quality indoor and outdoor resources, including varied teaching spaces, a diversity of habitats and a team of passionate and enthusiastic staff. A day with your local Wildlife Trust provides an unforgettable experience for all children and helps to consolidate learning done at school.”

The UCL research team studied children participating in outdoor activities with their local Wildlife Trust, ranging from a single activity, to a series of activities over the course of several weeks. 451 children (mostly 8-9 years of age) in 12 areas across England took part by completing surveys before and after they participated in outdoor activities. Additionally, teachers, Wildlife Trust educators and 199 of the children were also observed by the UCL research team and interviewed about their experiences.

The outdoor activities involved children learning about nature, such as identifying plants and trees, reflecting on their important role in our lives and considering the needs of wildlife habitats.

The nature connection of the children was also measured. Nature connection refers to the level at which a person considers nature to be a part of their identity, reflecting their emotional closeness to the natural world. Nature connection essentially includes a love of nature and care and concern for the environment.

Professor Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, UCL, 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.”

Read a summary of Nature Nurtures Children

Read the final research report, Children and Nature.