By Melanie Cousins 18th November 2022

A growing body of research positively links human health and wellbeing with the natural environment.

Specifically, there is an increasing interest in outdoor learning for promoting enhanced mental, social, and physical wellbeing in young people; a topic more pertinent than ever, given the unprecedented repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside a growing interest in outdoor learning, there is a fundamental goal of improving young people’s wellbeing through education and there is increasing critical consideration about the aim of schools supporting wellbeing. Calls, such as that from the National Institute for Health Research, demonstrate the necessity to develop a robust evidence base to help inform policy and decision makers develop services that will improve young people’s physical health, mental wellbeing, and academic development.

This project aims to enhance the understanding of how wellbeing is experienced in environmental education programs and the broader settings of education. It will help practitioners, researchers and educational professionals think about wellbeing aspects of educational initiatives and the importance of seeking views from young people about wellbeing in education.

group learning outdoors

Research that will be carried out within this project will capture practitioners’ understanding of wellbeing in education, and the perceived opportunities and challenges that exist. As practitioners are tasked with delivering curricula and interacting with young people, it is vital that their experiences are understood. The research will be used to identify professional development and resource needs across outdoor education providers, practitioners, health professionals, and schools to ensure programs are designed in an inclusive and impactful manner that focus on the wellbeing of young people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Conference 2023:

Wellbeing in Practice: Supporting young people’s wellbeing in curriculum-focused outdoor and environmental education – preparing for the future, learning from the past

Wednesday 22nd February 2023 at Field Studies Council Slapton Ley, Devon

This one-day conference will address issues of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people in curriculum-focused outdoor and environmental education from the perspectives of outdoor education practitioners, teachers, schools, researchers, and mental health and wellbeing professionals.

Overview

There is increasing interest in outdoor and environmental education (OEE) for promoting enhanced mental, social, and physical wellbeing in young people; a topic more pertinent than ever, given the unprecedented repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls, such as that from the National Institute for Health Research, demonstrate the necessity to develop a robust evidence base to help inform policy and decision-makers develop services that will improve young people’s physical health, mental wellbeing, and academic development.

 

This one-day conference supported by the ESRC, Field Studies Council, and the University of Exeter will discuss the importance of supporting wellbeing in curriculum-focused OEE, such as residential fieldwork trips required for Geography and Biology NEA’s and consider how curriculum-focused OEE can be best designed to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Through exploring current examples from the sector by hearing experiences from practitioners, schools and researchers this conference will share current practices, consider challenges and explore how to overcome these challenges, discuss new ideas and the future of OEE.

Through facilitating conversations, critical thinking, and knowledge exchange between key stakeholders in curriculum-focused OEE this conference hopes to map out the future for supporting the wellbeing of young people in this field and the links between formal and informal education for supporting wellbeing.

Wellbeing in Outdoor and Environmental Education (OEE) Network launch

The conference will also launch the Wellbeing in Outdoor and Environmental Education (OEE) Network. This network will bring together stakeholders in research, policy, and practice such as OEE providers, schools, teachers, practitioners, and researchers that have an interest in the development of wellbeing in outdoor and environmental education. The aim of this network is to develop a network that is specifically focused on wellbeing in OEE. The purpose of this network is to facilitate knowledge exchange and discussions around best practice and challenges, research and gaps in the field, and to develop partnerships and collaborations.

Who should attend?

This conference will be of interest to schools (teachers, mental health leads etc.), service providers, practitioners, researchers, academics, and policymakers.

Why attend?

  • Keynote talks and discussion panels with outdoor and environmental education providers and schools leading practice in wellbeing
  • Gain practical insights into supporting the wellbeing of young people in curriculum-focused environmental education
  • Hear from the latest research and updates about implementing wellbeing into curriculum-focused outdoor and environmental education
  • Share knowledge and experiences through networking with a range of different stakeholders in the field of outdoor and environmental learning
  • Engage with selected case studies from a range of educational organisations and institutions, such as schools and outdoor learning providers

Call for presentations

We are inviting speakers from across the field of curriculum-focused outdoor and environmental education to submit proposals for either a 20-minute presentation or a 30-minute interactive workshop. We are interested in hearing from those based in schools, such as teachers, headteachers, support staff and mental health professionals, outdoor and environmental education practitioners and organisations, as well as researchers in the field.

We are looking for presentations that discuss experiences (both positive and negative) of supporting wellbeing in OEE, the challenges of incorporating wellbeing into OEE, research that explores wellbeing in OEE, and ways that research should be carried out, as well as new ideas and critical conversations around current practice around wellbeing in curriculum-focused OEE.

Please send a presentation/interactive workshop abstract of no more than 300 words to Rachel at [email protected] by no later than Friday 9th December. Outcomes of applications will be informed by Friday 6th January.

Programme

To be confirmed.

Book a place

Attending the conference is free and places will be open for booking soon.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list with updates about the conference please email Rachel at [email protected]