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
EcoPark, the Birmingham and Black Country Environmental Education Centre gives thousands of local children the opportunity to discover the nature on their doorsteps. Thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, in one of the most nature deprived areas of the region, our expert educators support children to find the 'Wow' in wildlife.
Gareth Morgan, Head of Education and Engagement, The Wildife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country says:
"We were delighted to take part in this study. We know children leave EcoPark feeling more confident, happier and more connected to the natural world and teachers tell us it also has a positive impact on their classroom learning and behaviour. Now this report offers proof."
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.”
Lessons from nature
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.”