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New study highlights benefits of outdoor work

Outdoor learning helps children develop and improve social skills, says university report

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 08, 2016 | Teaching

Rippledown education centre, which works with schools across the UK and Europe, has been praised for improving children’s self-esteem, confidence and social skills through its residential trips.

The report follows a study by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and leading environmental education charity The Bay Trust, which runs Rippledown, on the impact and influence of the centre’s programme on children’s learning and wellbeing.  

Three primary schools took part in the study, one from a rural part of Kent and two from an urban and suburban area of London. Fifty children aged between nine and 10 participated in team activities such as shelter building, using navigational tools such as map and compass; a walk to the beach; treasure hunting; and mini beast hunting.

Data gathered from an anonymous questionnaire, which was completed a week before, a week after and a month after the children’s residential stay, suggests that their experience enabled them to gain a greater sense of their own competence, connection to nature, hope, and resilience, as well as developing a healthier dietary awareness.   

The findings highlight how children view and interact with the outdoors, with responses including “being outdoors makes me happy” and “my actions will make the natural world different.” They also demonstrate the children’s positive coping skills while away from home.

Dr Joe Hinds, a Social-Environmental Psychologist at CCCU who gathered the data, says: “This study adds to a growing body of research linking the influence of a residential programme with children’s cognitive development and wellbeing to their time spent outdoors. 

“In an education system governed by goals and statistics, Rippledown provides a fresh approach, a fun, holistic way of learning, using nature as a playground. At Rippledown, future programmes with a similar ethos and approach may be able to provide an alternative education for children to benefit their physical health, psychological wellbeing and the environment that sustains them.”

Rippledown’s Outdoor Learning Tutor, Dr Sarah O’Malley, says: “The evidence gathered by this research clearly demonstrates the benefits of outdoor learning and provides support for various curriculum areas.  

“Rippledown has welcomed over 40,000 school children since it opened in 1977, providing each of them with a unique education at the old rectory house. For some, this is their first experience of being away from home. 

“We’re very proud of the brilliant residential school trips, outdoor learning and holiday clubs that we deliver at Rippledown and we’ll continue to develop programmes to enhance a child’s learning experience, with the principle values of health, environment and wellbeing at their heart.”

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