An Evidence Based Approach

BroadTree offer Forest School sessions, with a focus on learner led sesssions, physical activity in the natural environment, experiential learning, celebrating mistakes and knowing there’s more value in the journey than the outcome.

There are numerous quantitative and qualitative studies that have investigated the positives of this approach. Benefits include-

Forest School quantitatively reduces anger levels in secondary school students relative to ‘traditional’ schooling (Forest Commission Scotland, 2009, ‘Forest school: evidence for restorative health benefits in young people’)

Being surrounded by nature lowers the impact of life stress (Wells and Evans, 2003, ‘Nearby Nature- A buffer of life stress among rural children’)

Time spent in natural environments has been shown to improve attention for both the general population and children with ADHD. ““Doses of nature” might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the tool kit for managing ADHD symptoms” (Faber Taylor and Kuo, 2008, ‘Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park’)

“Using an electronic device in green settings substantially counteracts the attention enhancement benefits of green spaces”. This, and the risk of breakage/ damage is why we have a no device policy at our sessions. (Bin Jiang & William C. Sullivan, 2018, ‘How to Waste a Break: Using Portable Electronic Devices Substantially Counteracts Attention Enhancement Effects of Green Spaces’)

A statistical literature review concluded “there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive functioning in children”. It specifically references 4 studies that found sacrificing time in academic lessons to increase time in PE classes had “associated physical benefits and … resulted in either improvements or no change in academic performance”. (Sibley BA & Etnier JL, 2003, ‘The relationship between physical activity and cognition in children: A meta-analysis’)

Providing children with 70 minutes of exercise after school “enhanced cognitive performance and brain function during tasks requiring greater executive control.” (Charles Hillman, 2014, ‘Effects of the FITKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function’)

The Japanese ‘Forest Bathe’, which has been linked to a multitude of health benefits including lowered blood pressure, increased concentration and reduced levels of stress hormones

“Students [with access to natural environments] perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies and show greater motivation for studying science.” (Kings College London, 2011, ‘Understanding the diverse benefits of learning
in natural environments’)

A 4 year project worked with 40,000 primary and secondary age children concluded “95% of children surveyed said outdoor learning makes lessons more enjoyable”, “93% of schools said outdoor learning improves pupils’ social skills”, and “92% of schools said it improves pupils’ health and wellbeing and engages them with learning” (Natural England, 2016, ‘Natural Connections Demonstration Project, 2012-2016: Final Report and Analysis of the Key Evaluation Questions’)

A paper looking at physical activity levels in Forest School sessions states adults on the project noticed “an increased ability for quiet children to express themselves, an increase in confidence, positive participation from disruptive children, and speaking and listening skills.”, as well as concluding Forest School sessions are “a successful intervention in improving physical activity levels in primary school children” (Clare Austin, Dr Zoe Knowles and Jo Sayers, 2013, ‘Investigating effectiveness of Forest School sessions on children’s physical activity levels’)

The Early Childhood Magazine in the US ran a 4 page summary of the benefits of access to nature, including mentioning a study done in the Netherlands that showed a strong link between anxiety disorders and depression for children under 12 that lived more than 1km from their nearest green space. (Louise Chawla, June 2012, ‘The importance of access to nature for young children’)

For further reading, ForestSchools.com have another research collection, most of which is not referenced above.