The BBC’s Inside Out North West will showcase findings from a two-year long study conducted by a team of researchers from Liverpool Hope University.
Airing on Monday 5th March at 7.30pm on BBC One, the programme explores the idea that outdoor learning has benefits in Early Years education.
Presenter Simon O’Brien visited Nature to Nurture - Merseyside’s first outdoor nursery – to find out more about the child-led learning environment, which is based entirely outdoors in a woodland setting.
The nursery, which is rated ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted and was recently awarded ‘National Pre-School of the Year’, has been working with a team of researchers from Liverpool Hope to find out how children engage with their outdoor experiences and how this influences socio-emotional and cognitive development.
Encompassing several different fields, including Psychology, Health Science and Education, the research project is led by Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies Dr Babs Anderson.
She said: “We observe how children engage in their activities, their interactions and collaborations with their peers and the strategies they adopt to work in groups. We’re interested in other aspects of children’s development, including their physical activity, linking this to the development of coordination, balance, fine motor skills and self-expression.
“We intend this to be the first phase of an extended research project, so that in phase 2 we can compare Nature to Nurture with a part-time Forest school and also with a mainstream nursery setting. We aim to measure cortisol levels, indicators of the body’s stress levels, to identify any key trends in this.
“From this primary phase, we wish to enhance practitioner and parental understanding, capturing why and how this approach works. In the second phase, we’re aiming to influence policy and provision, so that changes can be made to enhance the outdoors experiences of young children, locally, regionally and nationally.”
The ‘Forest School’ model originates from Scandinavia, and while it is becoming increasingly popular in primary schools across the UK, Nature to Nurture offers a more immersive experience.
Children make use of natural materials found in the woodland for play and learning, and are encouraged to explore, climb trees and make dens.
There is currently little qualitative UK data to substantiate the benefits of outdoor learning in Early Years education and the Liverpool Hope study aims to address this.
Find out more on Inside Out North West, BBC One, Monday 5th March at 7.30pm.