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

A Kent environmental education centre that 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.

According to a new report assessing the effectiveness of outdoor learning at Rippledown, in Ringwould near Deal, the centre’s residential programmes allow children to “gain a sense of their own individual interests, strengths and abilities” as well as “nature connection, hope and dietary awareness”.

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. Some 50 children aged between 9 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.

Using hand-written journals created with natural objects, youngsters were also encouraged to give their opinions of Rippledown and describe their feelings inspired by photographs set in a natural environment.

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.

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