Tree cover and species composition effects on academic performance of primary school students
Human exposure to green space and vegetation is widely recognized to result in physical and mental health benefits; however, to date, the specific effects of tree cover, diversity, and species composition on student academic performance have not been investigated. We compiled standardized performance scores in Grades 3 and 6 for the collective student body in 387 schools across the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and examined variation in relation to tree cover, tree diversity, and tree species composition based on comprehensive inventories of trees on school properties combined with aerial-photo-based assessments of tree cover. Analyses accounted for variation due to socioeconomic factors using the learning opportunity index (LOI), a regional composite index of external challenges to learning that incorporates income and other factors, such as students with English as a second language. As expected, LOI had the greatest influence on student academic performance; however, the proportion of tree cover, as distinct from other types of “green space” such as grass, was found to be a significant positive predictor of student performance, accounting for 13% of the variance explained in a statistical model predicting mean student performance assessments. The effects of tree cover and species composition were most pronounced in schools that showed the highest level of external challenges, suggesting the importance of urban forestry investments in these schools.
Impacts of Long Term Forest Schools -- white paper.
A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study
Conclusions. Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.
Addressing “Nature-Deficit Disorder”: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study of Young Adults Attending a Wilderness Camp
Background and Objectives. Rapid urbanization raises concern about chronic human health issues along with less frequent interaction with the natural world. “Nature-deficit disorder,” a nonclinical term, describes this potential impact on the well-being of youth. We conducted a mixed methods pilot study of young adults attending a four-week wilderness camp to investigate whether nature-based camp experiences would increase connection to nature and promote multiple dimensions of well-being. Methods. Participants completed precamp (n = 46) and postcamp (n = 36) online questionnaires including nature-related and holistic well-being measures. Differences were investigated using paired t-tests. Interviews (n = 16) explored camp experiences and social relations. Results. All nature-related measures—exposure, knowledge, skills, willingness to lead, perceived safety, sense of place, and nature connection—significantly increased. Well-being outcomes also significantly improved, including perceived stress, relaxation, positive and negative emotions, sense of wholeness, and transcendence. Physical activity and psychological measures showed no change. Interviews described how the wilderness environment facilitated social connections. Conclusion. Findings illustrate the change in nature relations and well-being that wilderness camp experiences can provide. Results can guide future research agendas and suggest that nature immersion experiences could address the risk of “nature-deficit disorder,” improve health, and prepare future environmental leaders.
Immersive Nature-Experiences as Health Promotion Interventions for Healthy, Vulnerable, and Sick Populations? A Systematic Review and Appraisal of Controlled Studies
In this systematic review, we summarized and evaluated the evidence for effects of, and associations between, immersive nature-experience on mental, physical, and social health promotion outcomes. Immersive nature-experience was operationalized as non-competitive activities, both sedentary and active, occurring in natural environments removed from everyday environments. We defined health according to the World Health Organization's holistic and positive definition of health and included steady-state, intermediate, and health promotion outcomes. An electronic search was performed for Danish, English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish articles published between January 2004 and May 2017. Manual approaches, e.g., bibliographies from experts, supplemented the literature search. Data were extracted from 461 publications that met the inclusion criteria. To assess the status and quality of the evidence for health promotion effects of immersive nature-experience, we focused on the subset of studies based on controlled designs (n = 133). Outcome level quality of the evidence was assessed narratively. Interventions most often involved adventure-based activities, short-termed walking, and seated relaxation in natural environments. We found positive effects on a range of health promotion outcomes grouped under psychological wellbeing (n = 97; ≈55% positive; ≈13% mixed; ≈29% non-significant; 2% negative); psychosocial function (n = 67; ≈61% positive; ≈9% mixed; ≈30% non-significant); psychophysiological stress response (n = 50; ≈58% positive; ≈18% mixed; ≈24% non-significant), and cognitive performance (n = 36; ≈58% positive; ≈6% mixed; ≈33% non-significant; 3% negative); and social skills and relationships (n = 34; ≈70% positive; ≈7% mixed; ≈22% non-significant). Findings related to outcomes categorized under physical health, e.g., risk of cardiovascular disease, were less consistent (n = 51; ≈37% positive; ≈28% mixed; ≈35% non-significant). Across the types of interventions and outcomes, the quality of the evidence was deemed low and occasionally moderate. In the review, we identify, discuss, and present possible solutions to four core methodological challenges associated with investigating immersive nature-experience and health outcomes: (1) intervention and program complexity; (2) feasibility and desirability of randomization; (3) blinding of participants and researchers; and (4) transferability and generalizability. The results of the review have been published as a popular-scientific report and a scientific research overview, both in Danish language.
Effects of Regular Classes in Outdoor Education Settings: A Systematic Review on Students’ Learning, Social and Health Dimensions
Background: Participants in Outdoor Education Programmes (OEPs) presumably benefit from these programmes in terms of their social and personal development, academic achievement and physical activity (PA). The aim of this systematic review was to identify studies about regular compulsory school- and curriculum-based OEPs, to categorise and evaluate reported outcomes, to assess the methodological quality, and to discuss possible benefits for students. Methods: We searched online databases to identify English- and German-language peer-reviewed journal articles that reported any outcomes on a student level. Two independent reviewers screened studies identified for eligibility and assessed the methodological quality. Results: Thirteen studies were included for analysis. Most studies used a case-study design, the average number of participants was moderate (mean valued (M) = 62.17; standard deviation (SD) = 64.12), and the methodological quality was moderate on average for qualitative studies (M = 0.52; SD = 0.11), and low on average for quantitative studies (M = 0.18; SD = 0.42). Eight studies described outcomes in terms of social dimensions, seven studies in learning dimensions and four studies were subsumed under additional outcomes, i.e., PA and health. Eleven studies reported positive, one study positive as well as negative, and one study reported negative effects. PA and mental health as outcomes were underrepresented. Conclusion: Tendencies were detected that regular compulsory school- and curriculum-based OEPs can promote students in respect of social, academic, physical and psychological dimensions. Very little is known concerning students’ PA or mental health. We recommend conducting more quasi-experimental design and longitudinal studies with a greater number of participants, and a high methodological quality to further investigate these tendencies.