Recent and ongoing research projects conducted by members of the network include:
- Phil Waters is undertaking European Social Fund-supported PhD research with the title ‘Narrative Journey: can stories encourage children’s physical activity and interactions with nature?’ See the University of Exeter website for more details on how he is testing ‘Narrative Tool’ as a tool for practitioners to work with children in the natural world.
- ‘Beyond words: the non-verbal / unspoken in inclusive music practice: implications for the arts in a post-human world’ is an 18-month longitudinal study undertaken by the Plymouth Institute of Education and local charity Plymouth Music Zone that is observing and analysing music practice with those who cannot or will not speak. The project runs from June 2015 – March 2017.
- The ‘Campaign for National Parks: Mosaic Youth Project Evaluation’ is a research project at the Plymouth Institute of Education that is evaluating the impact of volunteering for activities related to National Parks for young people aged 16 – 24. The project runs from August 2013 – January 2016. The main focus for investigation is the level of the young people’s engagement with the natural environment following their volunteering activities.
- Children’s experiences at a residential outdoor education centre.
- Outdoor activities and disaffected young people in pupil referral units.
- Evaluation of forest school programmes.
- Investigation into the facilitation of reflective thinking on an expedition to Iceland - view the pdf at Taylor & Francis Online.
- Plymouth Institute of Education B.Ed (primary) humanities specialists have joined forces with Exmoor National Park Authority’s Heart of Exmoor group. This partnership is using Moorland Classroom workshops and learning outside the classroom opportunities for student teachers. The project aims to ensure that all humanities specialists are able to visit Exmoor National Park and access Moorland Classroom resources. Students will be able to develop their own understanding of sustainability, conservation and environmental management, become immersed in Moorland Classroom approaches and contribute to what schools are already doing. The partnership is researching the impact of an outdoor learning experience for student teachers’ confidence to provide outdoor learning in their own practice. The project began in October 2013 with an introductory workshop at the University of Plymouth and a short residential based at YHA Exford. Students participated in induction field studies at Dunkery and a training day at Dunster to introduce them to Exmoor and specific outdoor learning opportunities for key stage two. The students then carried out related learning and teaching activities on Grabbist Hill with a class of Year 4 children.
Good from Woods
Good from Woods is a lottery funded research project, led by The Silvanus Trust and the University of Plymouth, in partnership with The Forestry Commission, The Neroche Scheme and The Woodland Trust, running from April 2010 until December 2014. It has been developing research capacity in woodland practitioners to explore well-being outcomes from 12 woodland activities such as forest education and community woodlands, involving people of all ages and backgrounds, across the south-west of England.
Skills in research have been cascaded between practitioners and an online toolkit to support sustainable research engagement is currently being constructed. Sue Waite is research mentor for the project.
Natural Connections is a project funded by DEFRA, Natural England and English Heritage that aims to involve 200 schools in the South West with learning in natural environments (LINE). The project, led by Sue Waite and managed by Rowena Passy and Ian Blackwell, operates on a cascaded model of delivery, with five ‘hub leaders’ in Plymouth, Torbay, Cornwall, Bristol and North Somerset. Each hub recruits around five beacon schools, who then recruit around six ‘cluster’ schools, all of whom are in areas of high multiple deprivation. The objective is then to broker relationships between schools, support organisations and volunteers so that LINE becomes an established and embedded part of curriculum delivery.
Outdoor Education Evaluation
In 2013 Roger Cutting was part of a successful joint bid with Dr Dean Sherwin of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to the Blagrave Trust. The resulting award was £60,000 and this will be used to conduct a three-year longitudinal survey and evaluation of the use of ‘Forest Schools’ approaches with a cohort of children who have been identified with a range of social and behavioural problems. The project not only aims to evaluate the role that Forest Schools and outdoor education may play in providing different environments for children with behavioural problems, but also hopes to develop and trial innovative methods of such evaluations.
Get Kids Camping
Get Kids Camping was a research project commissioned by the Camping and Caravanning Club to investigate the relationship between education and camping. It was led by Sue Waite at the Plymouth Institute of Education. Around 600 camping families responded to a questionnaire that asked about educational, social and wellbeing impacts of camping to children of all ages.
Around four out of five respondents believed that camping had a positive effect on their children’s education; 98 per cent of parents said camping makes their kids appreciate and connect with nature, while 95 per cent said their kids were happier when camping. Children said that they enjoyed making and meeting new friends, having fun, playing outside and learning various camping skills.