Outdoors Further Reading

We hope you find these suggestions for further reading helpful.  We have provided links where appropriate, but in many cases a subscription will be required to access a particular research article.  Where an article is available without charge on another website, we have included a link to that for your information.  In the case of subscription articles, we do not recommend any particular provider and suggest that you use the information provided below to help you identify the most appropriate research source for you.

Malone, K. and Waite, S. (2016) Student Outcomes and Natural Schooling. Plymouth: Plymouth

University.  Available online: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/oelres-net

Davis, J. (2005) Educating for sustainability in the early years: Creating cultural change in a child care settingAustralian Journal of Environmental Education 21:pp. 47- 55.

This study shows that very young children, in the presence of passionate and committed teachers, are quite capable of engaging in education for sustainability and in ‘making a difference’. Campus Kindergarten in Brisbane, Australia is a learning community with a culture that deliberately engages in pro-people, pro-environment and pro-futures education for sustainability.

The kindergarten initiated its Sustainable Planet Project involving a variety of curriculum and pedagogical activities that have led to enhanced play spaces, reduced waste, lowered water consumption and improved biodiversity. As a consequence, this kindergarten community is helping to change the environmental attitudes, values and practices of many other adults who work with, and care about, young children.

John Siraj-Blatchford, J., Caroline Smith, K. and Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2010) Education for Sustainable Development in the Early Years. Paris, France: OMEP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education).

Education for sustainable development (ESD) incorporates the principles and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning; aspiring to create a satisfying and meaningful present and a hopeful, fairer future for all people – and our planet. If young children participate in rich and interesting experiences, and are encouraged to explore, understand and solve problems, then they can make a difference in their worlds, both now and in years to come. The ’Contribution of Early Childhood Education to a Sustainable Society’ (UNESCO, 2008) report recommended that early childhood teachers should move beyond environmental education focusing on “nature walks” and instead provide children with an opportunity to:

‘… engage in intellectual dialogue regarding sustainability, and in concrete actions in favour of the environment. In addition, it should incorporate learning to be compassionate and respect differences, equality and fairness as the world is increasingly interdependent and inter-connected. It was suggested that, instead of talking about the 3Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic, one should refer to the 7Rs for education for sustainable development: reduce, reuse, recycle, respect, repair, reflect and refuse’ (UNESCO, 2008 page 12).

Elliott, S. and Davis, J. (2009) Exploring the resistance: an Australian perspective on educating for sustainability in early childhood. International Journal of Early Childhood, 41(2), 65-77.

The authors of this report begin by emphasising that climate change and sustainability are issues of global significance. They argue that ‘contemporary early childhood researchers have been instrumental in shifting the paradigms in early childhood education in order to effect theoretical and pedagogical change…. As a result, there have been significant changes over the past decade or so, with respect to how issues such as gender, class, culture and ability equities are constructed and ‘taught’ in early childhood settings’. However, this same perspective has resulted in two ‘blind spots’: firstly placing humans centre stage above nature, and secondly, failing to create a theoretical space to support education for sustainability. The paper emphasises the urgency surrounding global environmental issues and the need for early childhood educators to ‘get on board’ in helping to address these major concerns. It concludes ‘the time for stalling has passed’.

Torquati, J. and Ernst, J. (2013) Beyond the Walls: Conceptualizing Natural Environments as “Third Educators”, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 34(2), 191-208.

 This research was conducted in the USA, using surveys with student teachers regarding their perceptions of natural settings, intentions to use natural settings in future teaching, knowledge of the benefits of nature for children, and ‘personal nature relatedness’. The study found that participants reported relatively high intentions to use natural settings in future teaching, as well as knowledge of the benefits of nature for children, but moderate levels of personal nature relatedness. Participants were more likely to select “maintained” settings such as parks for educational purposes, and more “natural” settings, especially those with water, for personal purposes. The article has an interesting section on the benefits of experience and personal connection to nature for children that is rich in useful references. The authors conclude, ‘considering that natural environments offer rich affordances for learning and development… Natural environments have been underutilized in contemporary early childhood education in the U.S.’ and that in order to effectively use them as the “third educators” ’ opportunities for educators are needed.

MacQuarrie, S., Nugent, C. and Warden, C. (2015) Learning with nature and learning from others: nature as setting and resource for early childhood education, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 15:1, 1-23.

In the context of climate change, the burgeoning number of threatened species and diminishing wild spaces, learning from nature is ever more important for young children and for their futures. Engaging with nature also enriches all our lives. This paper focuses on ‘nature-based’ learning in a Scottish and two Nordic kindergartens, revealing that nature is a setting, resource and educator across the three countries. Findings include that local-based practices include a cultural dimension; the importance of practitioners’ engagement with parents and other generations; the practitioners’ role in learning; the value of place-based learning (visiting and re-visiting a location); risk-based and ‘risk-rich’ practice and nature as educator. Local, social and cultural contexts influence pedagogy and implications for practice are given.

Waters, J. and Bateman, A. (2015) Revealing the interactional features of learning and teaching moments in outdoor activity, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 23:2, 264-276.

 The data for this study was generated as part of doctoral research (Waters 2011) where child-initiated, teacher–child interaction in indoor and outdoor spaces were investigated. The indoor space in the study was provided by the regular classrooms and the shared spaces inside the school; the outdoor space was a local natural park area to which the classes made regular, though not frequent, visits every month. These visits were explicitly spaces in which children’s activity was valued over any pre-planned teacher-led activity. The findings showed that that the outdoor environment stimulated children’s thinking and enquiry and afforded multiple opportunities for children to proffer their interest(s) to the teacher; they did this by asking wh type questions [e.g. what? why?] and referring to their immediate outdoor environment. The transcripts demonstrate that when the teacher and child are affiliated through their interest in a topic, the interaction is sustained and the co- construction of knowledge is afforded. The authors conclude by highlighting a number of implications for earning and practicing teachers.

This article draws attention to how a group of Swedish pre-school professionals understand and experience their work of creating gender equity in their programs. In this study, outdoors was seen as gender-neutral place and professionals appear to be gender-blind in some of the frequently recurring situations in pre-school. The findings highlight the complexity in finding new ways to counteract stereotyped gender roles and patterns in children’s outdoor play and learning.

Passy, R. (2014) School gardens: teaching and learning outside the front door. Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 42:1, 23-38

What is the impact of school gardens on primary children’s learning, and what pedagogies are involved in teaching children in the garden? Whilst drawing attention to some of the inherent tensions and challenges faced by teachers and practitioners, the research illustrates how teaching and learning in the school garden can make a valuable contribution to children’s social, academic and emotional development. Focusing on gardens at primary schools it highlights the sheer pleasure of creating a garden can have a ripple effect throughout the school, and has relevance for gardens at nursery and other preschool settings.


We are building a bank of resources to support your early years research project.  Links to suggested further reading in each of the key research hubs can be found below.  Or contact us and let us know how we can make this website more relevant to you and your practice.

We'd love to hear from you!  Please get in touch with any ideas or suggestions for the website.

We will only use the information submitted in this form to make contact with you regarding your enquiry. Your details will be stored securely and will never be passed to third parties. Please tick the box to confirm you are happy with this.

12 + 8 =