Educational Benefits


Attention Restoration Theory and Behaviour

  • Kaplan (1995) proposed Attention Restoration Theory in which nature reduces directed attention fatigue (1).
  • ‘The natural environment is the most restorative environment and allows our brain to recharge and resume direct attention.’ Dr Bird (2007) (2).
  • Dr Bird sites over one hundred research papers supporting the role of the natural environment in attention restoration. (3).
  • Kuo and Sullivan (2001) have demonstrated that symptoms such as irritability, impulsive behaviour and aggression can be reduced by increased contact with a natural environment. (4).
  1. See Bird, W (2007) Natural Thinking: Investigating the Links between the Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Mental Health. RSPB. First Edition. pp 39.
  2. Bird, W (2007) quoted in Dillon, J (2011) ‘Understanding the Diverse Benefits of Learning in Natural Environments. King’s College London. pp9.
  3. Kuo FE & Sullivan WC (2001) Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment via Mental Fatigue. Environment and Behaviour 33. No. 4. July 2001. pp 543-571.
  4. Kuo FE & Sullivan WC (2001) Environment and Crime in the Inner City. Does Vegetation Reduce Crime? Environment and  Behaviour 33. 2001. pp 343.


 Learning styles

  • Swarbrick et al. (2004) reported that through adoption of a forest school approach, there had been a notable change in self-efficacy and self-worth.  There was an ‘increased ability of quiet children to express themselves, an increase in confidence, and positive participation from disruptive children’. (1)
  1. Swarbrick et al. (2004) quoted in Dillon, J (2011) ‘Understanding the Diverse Benefits of Learning in Natural Environments. King’s College London. pp 9.


Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Bird (2007) notes that ‘green time’ can have a significant role in helping to reduce the symptoms of ADHD (1).
  • The symptoms of children with ADHD can improve by up to 30% through activities in nature compared to an urban outdoor setting, and threefold compared to an indoor environment.(2).
  1.  Bird, W (2007) Natural Thinking: Investigating the Links between the Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Mental Health. RSPB. First Edition. pp 77.
  2. Faber Taylor et al. (2001) Coping with ADHD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behaviour. 33 (Jan 2001). Pp 54-77.


Cognitive Impacts

  • Rickenson et al. (2004), on behalf of the National Foundation of Educational Research(NfER), a UK based organisation, carried out an extensive peer review of research on outdoor learning. NfER(2004) concluded that “fieldwork can have a positive impact on long-term memory due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting…There can be reinforcement between the affective and the cognitive, with each influencing the other and providing a bridge to higher order learning” p34 (1).
  • NfER (2004) reported on a number of studies that provided both quantitative and anecdotal evidence of improved attainment as a result of engagement in school grounds projects. For example, a state wide study by the California State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER) compared schools that had conducted a significant amount of their curriculum in a natural, community or local context that incorporated problem-based instruction and learner centred methods, with those that had retained a traditional classroom based approach. They found that the more sessions schools had conducted out of the classroom, the higher they scored on reading, science and mathematics. They also had higher attendance rates and grade point averages (a US measure of academic attainment). (2).
  • NfER (2004) concluded that ‘Despite substantial evidence of the potential of fieldwork to raise standards of attainment and improve attitudes towards the environment there is evidence that the amount of fieldwork that takes place in the UK and some other parts of the world is severely restricted, particularly in science’. (3).
  1. NfER(2004) ‘A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning.’ pp 24.
  2. NfER(2004) ‘A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning.’  pp 34.
  3. NfER (2004) ‘A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning.’ pp5.


Social Skills

  • Nundy (2001) noted that during outdoor residential fieldwork, the collaborative tasks in which the 10 and 11 year olds engaged in had positive impacts on their cooperation skills, leadership qualities, perseverance, reliability, initiative and motivation.
  1. Nundy (2001) quoted in Dillon et al. (2005) ‘Engaging and Learning with the Outdoors- The Final Report of the Outdoor Classroom in a Rural Context Action Research Project.’ National Foundation for Educational Research. Pp29.



  • In an Ofsted report evaluating the role of learning outside the classroom researchers found that    ‘..In the majority of schools visited there was a belief that learning outside the classroom could help overcome difficult behaviour rather than being an extra risk factor. The pupils and students themselves supported this view, saying that one of the attractions of learning outside the classroom was that everyone behaved well because they were motivated and active. In a wide range of learning outside the classroom observed outside the classroom, inspectors saw nothing but good or very good behaviour.’ This echoed an earlier Ofsted report that showed that pupil attitudes and behaviour during outdoor or adventurous activities were good and often exemplary ‘with mature responses to challenging situations’. (1)
  • Kaplan (1995) reported 50% less crime and domestic violence in families with a view of vegetation to those in identical housing with no view of vegetation. This demonstrates the strong correlation between natural environments, mood and behaviour. (5)
  • Ofsted (2008) ‘Learning Outside the Classroom. How far should you go?’ HM Inspectorate for Schools in England.
  • Kaplan, S (1995) quoted in Dillon, J (2011) ‘Understanding the Diverse Benefits of Learning in Natural Environments. King’s College London. pp 8.



  • Researchers have observed that children’s play in natural environments is more diverse, imaginative and creative than children’s play in other settings (Cobb, 1977; Faber Taylor et al, 1998) and that creative play encourages language development, social and collaborative skills (Fjortoft & Sageie, 2000; Moore & Wong, 1997). (1)
  1. Quoted in Strife & Downey (2011) Childhood Development and Access to Nature. A New Direction in Environmental Inequality Research.

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