The restorative outcomes of forest school and conventional school in young people with good and poor behaviour
Adolescents experience positive emotional change after spending time in an outdoor educational setting
Literature suggests that the restorative effect of nature can vary among adults with different mental health conditions, yet research on children and adolescents is lacking. This article aimed to compare the restorative outcomes when adolescents spend time in an outdoor forest school versus a conventional indoor school. A secondary aim was to examine the restorative effects among adolescents who differ across a behavioral spectrum from good to poor behavior.
Two behavior groups (good versus poor behavior) of 18 adolescents with an average age of 11 years participated in the study. They were recruited from two senior schools located in deprived urban areas of central Scotland. The behavior categories of participants were reported by the schools. All participants had a day of forest school and a day of conventional school, and did the questionnaire before and after each school day. In general, the poor behavior groups included teenagers with ADHD and were at risk from exclusion from schools. Participants’ degrees of happiness and sadness, energy, stress and anger levels were measured using a standard mood scale. Reflection on personal development was measured using a scale measuring cognition and affect.
The result of this study demonstrates that adolescents experience positive emotion after the forest school. Each of the four emotional variables (happiness and sadness, energy, stress and anger) showed significant positive change in the forest school than the conventional school. With regard to the difference in change between good and bad behavior groups, the poor behavior groups showed more positive change after the forest school than the good behavior group. Similarly, there was a trend of more positive reflection on personal projects after a day in the forest school, although the effect size was small and didn't reach statistical significance.