Outdoor & Experiential Learning Research Network (OelResNet)

Welcome to the Outdoor and Experiential Learning Research Network site! Based at the Plymouth Institute of Education, we are part of a growing movement that aims to get people of all ages outside in ways that will benefit their learning, health and wellbeing. We welcome all with a practical, research or recreational interest in the outdoors, and hope you enjoy taking part in our activities.

Please contact us at oelresnet@plymouth.ac.uk if you’d like to become a member.

One day conference

On 18 January 2018 we will be re-launching the Outdoor and Experiential Learning Research Network as a regional hub of the IOL national network of research hubs. The network’s new name will be Peninsula Research in Outdoor Learning (PRinOL), and we invite you to its inaugural event in the Rolle Building at the University of Plymouth, 10am-4pm.

In the morning, Chris Loynes (University of Cumbria), Ann Finlayson (CEO of Sustainability and Environmental Education SEED), and Sam Kendall (Eden Project) have agreed to deliver keynotes; Iain Stewart has also agreed providing he isn’t filming! In the afternoon we’ll have a range of different workshops. Our aim is to get practitioners and researchers together to learn about the work being undertaken in the South West, and to discuss avenues for potential collaborative projects.

The cost is £15 per person, to include coffee, tea and lunch.

Please register for the conference.

See the event flyer.

Transforming Outdoor Learning in Schools

"Pupils also enjoy an increasing range of opportunities for outdoor education which broadens their horizons and enhances their progress in classroom work. These activities contribute to pupils’ improving spiritual, moral, social and cultural development."

- Natural Connections school Ofsted report June 2014

Outdoor learning isn’t a subject or topic; it’s a powerful way of teaching. The Transforming Outdoor Learning in Schools booklet provides an introduction to the value and impact of well-planned regular outdoor learning.

Have you ever wondered whether woodland walks are good for you?

The BIG Lottery funded project Good from Woods looked at wellbeing derived from woodland activities and the full report is available.

You may also be interested in these articles, arising from that project: 

Waite, S., Goodenough, A., Norris, V. & Puttick, N. (2016) From little acorns..: environmental action as a source of ecological wellbeing, International Journal of Pastoral Care in Education. 34 (1), 43-61. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02643944.2015.1119879

Aronsson, J., Waite, S. & Tighe Clarke, M. (2015) Measuring the impact of outdoor learning on the physical activity of school age children: The use of accelerometry. Education and Health, 33(3). http://sheu.org.uk/x/eh333ja.pdf

Goodenough, A., Waite, S. & Bartlett, J. (2015) Families in the forest: guilt trips, bonding moments and potential springboards, Annals of Leisure Research, 18 (3), 377-396. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/11745398.2015.1059769

Wright, N., Goodenough, A. & Waite, S. (2015) Gaining insights into young peoples’ playful wellbeing in woodland through art based action research, Journal of Playwork Practice, 2(1), 23-43. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/jpp/2015/00000002/00000001/art00003



Naturally Healthy Devon Schools 

Like the Natural Connections project, Naturally Healthy Devon Schools aimed to stimulate the demand from schools and teachers for outdoor learning, support them to build outdoor learning into everyday practice and to stimulate the supply of services to enable teachers and schools to do this. It had an additional focus on how learning outside the classroom supports schools to promote healthy outcomes, and so aimed to increase our understanding of both the learning and health benefits of outdoor learning. It was funded by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Devon via a legacy they had received with the aim of strengthening the link between the children of Devon and their local environment. Additional funding was also received from Natural England, Devon County Council, Devon Local Nature Partnership and Plymouth University. It reached over 7,000 Devon schoolchildren. 

Read the report (pdf)

Creating Happy and Healthy Schools Toolkit 

A new toolkit to help schools to monitor children's physical activity and wellbeing when learning outside and inside the classroom, based on research undertaken as part of the Naturally Healthy Devon Schools project, is now available. You can obtain hard copies by emailing oelresnet@plymouth.ac.uk.

Supporting moor health and well-being

The top four outcomes from activities in a National Park were enjoyment, a sense of belonging, learning and relaxation according to participant comments on the Naturally Healthy (Dartmoor) and Moor to Enjoy (Exmoor) projects. A recent evaluation by Sarah Howes, Andy Edwards-Jones and Sue Waite of these two initiatives to promote health and well-being through activities in our local National Parks has shown that working with existing community groups can be a quicker method of engaging people to take advantage of the benefits of being in the natural environment than green prescriptions. A toolkit that sets out steps learned from the evaluation for successful natural health and well-being projects is also available: Moor Health and Wellbeing Toolkit.

Find out more in our report.