03 October 2013

The school moves into the forest


Do children get more physically active, happier with school, learn more, and do they establish better friendships in the class when the classroom is replaced by teaching in nature or in an urban environment one day a week? As the phenomenon 'outdoor teaching' or 'udeskole' has spread across Denmark the last decade, researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports and at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management in collaboration with Steno Diabetes Center in Gentofte will study these questions.

With the financial support of 6.84 million DKK from the Danish foundation TrygFonden the research group will start analyzing outdoor teaching as an alternative way of teaching and its effects on a larger group of pupils in Denmark.

The project is called “TEACHOUT” and will include 600 udeskole pupils who will be studied by the researchers. At the same time comparison classes in the same grade who do not receive teaching outdoors will be followed. 

The forest creates new friends

Past research has shown that pupils benefited from teaching in nature or green areas on a number of points which they could use in the classroom and school life in general - such as greater motivation to attend school, greater independency in their school work, increased exercise and not least the forest created friendships across the usual divisions in the class.

Professor Bjarne Bruun Jensen from Steno Diabetes Center states:

- The udeskole concept is a very good example of how health promotion in the form of exercise can be integrated into school life and teaching in a fun, relevant, and not the least educational way. Therefore we are very supportive of TEACHOUT at Steno.

Center for Outdoor Recreation and Nature Interpretation at Forest and Landscape College in Nødebo, University of Copenhagen, has for many years worked with learning in nature and has a broad portfolio of educational activities, development, and research in the field of udeskole.

Executive head of education at Forest and Landscape College, Anders Bülow, states:

- It is great that udeskole, as one of the fastest growing educational trends in Denmark, has been given such an important opportunity to strengthen its evidence. This research project will give a qualified contribution to the effect of udeskole pedagogy within themes such as learning styles, inclusion, physical activity, and social relationships. 

Taking in knowledge under the trees

Associate Professor Erik Mygind, University of Copenhagen, who was the anchor man for the first case study of udeskole in Denmark 10 years ago, states:

- It began as a pedagogical experiment with 19 pupils in a third grade class at the school Rødkilde in Vanløse, greater Copenhagen. Three years in a row the children and their teachers replaced the classroom with the woods one day a week. And it was not 'only' teaching in nature-related subjects, but also basic knowledge of the subjects Danish and mathematics that pupils acquired under the trees of the wood.

The phenomenon of udeskole has spread throughout Denmark, ten years after the Rødkilde experiment was successfully completed.

Approximately 300 out of a total of 1,855 Danish primary and secondary schools - municipal as well as private - currently have some form of udeskole on the timetable. But scientific studies and evidence is lacking about which positive or negative effects “one school day in the green or urban environment outside the classroom walls” have for both pupils and teachers. New research with 600 udeskole pupils will now remedy this.

For more information

Associate Professor Erik Mygind
University of Copenhagen
Mobile: 28 75 08 94

Professor Bjarne Bruun Jensen
Steno Diabetes Center
Mobile: 30 75 75 75

Executive head of education Anders Bülow
Center for Outdoor Recreation and Nature Interpretation
at Forest and Landscape College in Nødebo
Mobile: 40 45 11 54