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Research Intelligence

Summer 2021

The serious side of nature, outdoor
learning & play
International perspectives

Research Intelligence issue 147

The special section in this issue looks beyond the dominant Eurocentric and UK-based perspectives on outdoor learning – the subject of extensive and growing research across the world – to make a significant contribution to knowledge development and exchange from international perspectives. Guest editors Tracy Hayes and Mark Leather, bring together leading authors from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada and India to discuss ways of researching the lifelong health, wellbeing and educational benefits that can be provided in a range of outdoor learning contexts.

Nature, outdoor learning and play is about more than fun and games: it also enables us to explore some of the most pressing problems facing the world, particularly mental wellbeing, climate change, biodiversity loss and finding positive ways for humans to more sustainably coexist with non-humans. Playful, nature-based activities provide ways of learning about the outside world and understanding our place within it, and enable the development of a more positive relationship with nature, other people and ourselves.

This special section includes the following articles.

  • Inclusion: A time for hope about adaptation & access  |  Tomás Aylward & TA Loeffler
  • Play, outcomes & policy agendas: A critical perspective  |  Elizabeth Wood
  • Living with uncertainty: Building a balanced, thoughtful approach to risk in outdoor play  |  Tim Gill
  • Rethinking young children’s play lives: Do toddlers & pre-schoolers need academic lessons & enrichment activities?  |  Sruthi Atmakur-Javdekar
  • ‘First do no harm’: The ethical challenges of teacher–student–nature centredness  |  John Quay
  • The growth of youth activism: Why we should listen to young people  |  Katie Parsons
  • Young people’s challenge: Will you help us?  |  Lucie Parsons
  • Defining outdoor education: Defiant, futile or ever-changing  |  Heidi Smith

Elsewhere in this issue, Olivene Burke provides a fascinating historical overview of the development of tertiary education in Jamaica, and Jonathan Glazzard and Samuel Stones continue our focus on ‘Contemporary issues in mental health and wellbeing in education’, with two articles that respectively explore LGBTQ+ students’ transitions throughout university, and new research on the impact of a mental health curriculum, physical activity and peer mentoring on school pupils’ mental health.