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Poorer pupils benefit most from school nature trips

Deb_Pinniger_schools3Poorer children are less interested in being outdoors in nature than better-off children, but that difference can be turned on its head after just one day spent learning outside. That’s according to early findings from a study by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).

WWT’s study – thought to be the first of its kind – is investigating the long-term impact of a school visit to one of WWT’s wetland centres on pupils’ attitudes and values around nature and wildlife.

Groups of pupils from different schools were tracked from the day before their first visit and for a further year or more using focus groups and surveys.

The responses of pupils from schools in poorer areas – where a high proportion claim free school meals – were generally far less positive about nature and wildlife than their peers before the visit. But when researchers followed up in the weeks afterwards, they found this group had developed a greater interest and positive attitude, including wanting to do things to help wildlife.

School pond dippingThese preliminary findings come one year into the study. Over the next year more schools will join the study and final results are expected in 2017.

Lucy Hellier, WWT learning project manager said:

“Young kids that learn and play outside are more likely to be healthy and active. They get direct experience of weather and the seasons and wildlife – things that are only possible outdoors – and they get to assess risks, solve problems and develop creativity.

“The benefits may seem obvious, but in reality many children don’t get to be outdoors in a natural environment in any regular or meaningful way. And that’s even more common among kids from deprived areas who, as a result, may be less enthusiastic about wildlife and nature.”

“WWT has an opportunity to change that. 55,000 children visit our wetland centres with their schools each year. We want to ensure that single day inspires them and their teachers enough to have a lasting positive impact on their lives. Every clue from this research is valuable and we’re really excited about what we might find over the coming year.”



Other early results from the study also indicate:

  • Pupils enjoy their school visit and learn new things about wildlife and nature
  • Pupils’ attitudes improve more if the visit is related to a broader topic that they’re studying or activities that they do back at school
  • Pupils are just as interested in outdoors and nature related activities, as they are in being sedentary and indoors
  • Christina Collie

    So glad you can do this valuable work I think it is so important! Especially for, as you say poorer families As a child, I had an innate curiosity for nature and wildlife, I still have…. and still use my now very battered ‘Observer Book of Birds and ‘Their Eggs’ books As you say, a day out at Slimbridge can really fire a young child’s imagination and give them a better perspective on life I’m sure it goes a long way to improve the general health and well being of everyone who visits I have mental health problems and I know a visit to WWT Slimbridge greatly improves my condition I am now 53 years old

    • WWT

      Thanks Christina, great to hear from you, we couldn’t agree more! It’s amazing how much impact being out in the fresh air and surrounded by nature can have. Look forward to seeing you again soon 🙂

      • Christina Collie

        Just plotting when I can come again Always come for the Downy Duckling days I’ve done Felting workshops Guided Orchid walks, Safaris, Talks Held a Natter jack toad! all sorts! Always used to visit about 3 times a year But since being a member for the last 3 years I visit lots more It’s my favourite day out! I’ve got to know so many of you…. You’re like family to me! I also have an adopted Lesser Flamingo called Felicity And a visit is not complete until I’ve seen ‘Mr James’ Thank you all So much!

        • WWT

          Ah, that really is wonderful to hear your lovely feedback. Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm, it’s much appreciated 🙂