Resources: Research Supporting School Forest Use

School Forest logoResearch Supporting School Forest Use

There is a wide variety of research available to support the use of environmental education and outdoor instruction. Research indicates improvement in students' critical thinking, motivation, achievement in core subject areas, classroom behavior, and more.

  • Use the Children & Nature Network to find great research summaries and links to full research papers on environmental education and outdoor instruction.
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  • The National Wildlife Federation has released various reports that discuss how being outdoors affect children. Topics include children’s well-being, school readiness, and academic performance.
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  • Environmental Education Week is a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation. Their site features research on the benefits associated with environmental education. (It also includes some great educational materials).
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link to Children and Nature Network

Few sample research summaries

Contact with Nature can positively affect mental health and well-being.

Full article

This literature review discusses research on the relationship between nature and health and well-being. It highlights how cognitive function, stress reduction, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can be positively impacted by contact with nature.

Townsend, M. & Weerasuriya, R. (2010). Beyond blue to green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being. Melbourne, Austraila.


Hands-on outdoor learning benefits students

Full article
A 2003 study on the impacts of green school grounds found that 90 percent of respondents reported increased student enthusiasm and engagement in learning on green school grounds as compared to teaching indoors. 70 percent of respondents reported that their personal motivation for teaching increased. Results also key challenges, barriers and improvements in regard to green school ground initiatives.

Dyment, J. (2005). "Gaining ground: The power and potential of school ground greening in the Toronto District School Board: Evergreen."


Outdoor Education and Outdoor School Time Can Create High Performance Students

Full article

A report by the National Wildlife Federation that summarizes studies on the role of outdoor learning and play time in children's education.


Nature-Smart Kids Get Higher Test Scores

Full article
Major findings: 27 percent increase in measured mastery of science concepts; enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills; gains in self-esteem; gains in positive environmental behavior; and gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, and classroom behavior. (Original research)

"Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California." American Institutes for Research: Palo Alto, CA: 2005.


Outdoor Experience for Teens Has Self-Reported Life-Changing Results

Full article
Results indicate that the majority of respondents found this outdoor experience to be "one of the best in their life." Participants report positive effects on their personal, intellectual, and spiritual development. Pronounced results were found in enhanced self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy, and initiative. These impacts occurred among both the retrospective and longitudinal responses, meaning results persisted through many years.

Kellert, Stephen R.; with the assistance of Victoria Derr. "A National Study of Outdoor Wilderness Experience." New Haven: Yale University, 1998.

link to National Wildlife Federationlink to Environmental Education Week