The impact of a biodiversity focussed outdoor learning programme in school grounds on primary school children's mood, wellbeing, resilience, connection to nature, knowledge, and perception of nature

Louise Montgomery

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    A connection with nature is largely established during childhood and children are more inclined to build a connection to what is familiar to them. However, the opportunity for children to familiarise themselves with local wildlife has reduced due to urbanisation and classroom-based lessons. Natural habitats within school grounds can house a variety of species but there is a gap in knowledge on the advantages that direct exposure to nature during outdoor education within school grounds can have on children’s wellbeing and environmental attitudes.
    Investigations involving 1,253 primary school children (8-12 years old) were carried out to explore the impact of weekly hands-on nature engagement activities in school grounds on children’s mood, wellbeing, resilience, connection to nature, knowledge and perception of nature. The activities focused around discovering and monitoring species, and creating new habitats and food sources. The activities were designed to be carried out in school grounds regardless of size and ecological quality and focussed on invertebrates and vertebrates.
    Questionnaires, focus-groups, quizzes, personal meaning maps and drawings were completed by the children before and after the set of activities to assess their wellbeing, resilience, connection to nature, knowledge and perception of nature. I identified that children who participated in these activities had significant improvements in their mood and wellbeing, which were sustained throughout the academic year. Additionally, children who started with low wellbeing, resilience or connection to nature were positively impacted; while control children who did not participate in the activities showed no significant improvement. Moreover, children’s knowledge and perception of nature were found to significantly change. Negative perceptions and false knowledge of taxa were found to decrease following the activities and children developed more accurate identification skills and understanding of local biodiversity. Finally, children and teachers shared the positive impacts the outdoor sessions had on teaching confidence, learning experience and their relationship with nature.
    Integrating nature engagement into school curriculum could improve children’s educational experience and provide a low-cost method for improving their psychological wellbeing and resilience while allowing children to develop a greater awareness and connection to the natural environment around them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Royal Holloway, University of London
    • Gange, Alan, Supervisor
    Award date1 Feb 2021
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2020


    • nature
    • wellbeing
    • children
    • biodiversity
    • perception
    • biophilia
    • nature connection
    • primary education
    • outdoor education
    • mood
    • resilience
    • knowledge
    • social constructionism
    • postpositivsm
    • educational theory

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