How you can make the most of Planet Ark's new research into outdoor learning

How you can make the most of Planet Ark's new research into outdoor learning

By Claire Bell  July 6th, 2017

In the lead up to National Tree Day we look at Planet Ark's new research and how parents and teachers alike can help kids learn outdoors


A new report from Planet Ark examines how prepared the next generation is to tackle the biggest future challenges facing humanity. Find out what 200 surveyed teachers said were the top skills kids needed for the future.

The Learning from Trees: Life Lessons for Future Generations report, commissioned by Planet Ark and sponsored by Toyota Australia, is being released in the lead up to National Tree Day (Sunday 30 July 2017). The report examines how prepared the next generation is to tackle the biggest global challenges facing humanity. These challenges have been defined by the United Nations, with climate change the most concerning challenge overall.

The research is accompanied by a video made with award-winning nature photographer and naturalist, Steve Parish OAM, on how nature teaches us three skills kids need most in the age of climate change.



The report presents the results of a snapshot survey of 200 Australian teachers (100 primary, 100 secondary) and what they identified as the most crucial skills students need for the future.  Teachers were asked to rank the following skills and attributes in order of importance: STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics); problem solving and critical thinking; creativity and innovation; compassion; ‘grit’ (determination, resilience and perseverance); emotional intelligence and trade skills. The report also includes research from Australia and overseas that demonstrates how the crucial skills identified can be developed through outdoor learning and nature time.

The results show:

  • 60% of teachers ranked critical thinking and problem solving, grit and resilience and emotional intelligence as the most important skills for the future. These same skills were identified as students’ weakest, with grit being the weakest overall.
  • Only 4% of surveyed teachers considered STEM skills in the top three most needed skills.
  • Less than 34% of Australian teachers taught outdoors for 15 minutes or more in a 10-week Term (excluding lunch, recess and physical education).
  • Only 4% of teachers surveyed considered outdoor learning as most important for fostering inspiration, creativity and problem solving.
  • Research shows outdoor learning helps grow problem solving, grit, emotional intelligence and key educational outcomes, both during and outside of school hours. 
  • Nature ignites passion, inspiration, creativity and purpose and plays an important role in the cognitive, emotional and physical development of children. 
  • Outdoor learning was added to the Australian Curriculum in 2015

Kirrilie Smout, clinical psychologist and Director of Developing Minds Psychology and Education, who has worked with kids and teens for 20 years, agrees the key skills identified by teachers are vital.

According to Smout:  “Future generations will need to persist through hardships and set-backs, and successful problem solving requires concentration and grit. We will need to work together and establish positive relationships, so emotional intelligence and communication skills will be key. This is the job of parents and carers, schools and teachers, and society as a whole. Children with these skills (problem solving, grit and emotional intelligence) will be happier, healthier and more successful.”

Australian research conducted by Dr Amanda Lloyd, Director of Outdoor Connections and a leader in the field of outdoor learning, shows students who take part in outdoor learning programs continue to perform well academically, but they also learn problem solving, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and resilience. Further research says 77% of teachers reported improvement in standardised test results, and exposure to natural environments reduces stress, enhances concentration and creativity and increases productivity.

In many western countries, learning outdoors is no longer considered a peripheral activity because of its widely accepted benefits. In Finland, primary school children must spend 15 minutes every hour outdoors, whatever the weather. Researchers identify outdoor learning as an important element in Finland’s successful development of the best primary school system in the world, as rated by international benchmarks.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


By Claire Bell

Claire is Planet Ark's Recycling Campaign Manager. After working in the communications industry and raising a young family, she joined Planet Ark to follow her passion for helping the environment.

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