Institution: aThe Mersey Forest – UK; bThe Physical Activity Exchange, Liverpool John Moores University – UK


Keywords: Forest School, Natural Play, Learning outdoors, Health

Over the past 10 years, Forest School provision in Northwest England has rapidly expanded. Corresponding studies during this time have demonstrated a range of benefits to the children participating. Forest School has had a positive effect: connecting children to nature, influencing children’s natural play and their knowledge of the world around them, providing a mechanism to break down the barriers and encourage children and their families to play more in natural settings during their leisure time.

Additionally, within the school setting, Forest School research has shown impacts of increased social interaction, confidence, improved mental wellbeing and physical activity levels, ensuring more schools are training staff as Forest School Leaders.

These projects were undertaken in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University, Physical Activity Exchange and The Mersey Forest, one of the leading environmental regeneration initiatives in the North West of England.

References (reports & collaborative research include)

Ridgers, N.D, & Sayers, J. (2010). Natural play in the forest: Forest School evaluation reports.

Ridgers, N.D, Knowles, Z.R, & Jo Sayers. (2012). Encouraging play in the natural environment: a child-focused case study of Forest School. Children’s Geographies, 10(1), 49-65.

Austin, C.L., Knowles, Z.R. and Sayers, J. (2015) Evaluation of the Natural Health Service- Forest Schools. The Mersey Forest and Liverpool John Moores University. Unpublished Report

Clare Austin, Zoe Knowles, Kaye Richards, Mel McCree, Jo Sayers, and Nicola D. Ridgers Springer Press publication – Chapter on: Play and Learning Outdoors: Engaging with the Natural World Using Forest School in the UK – P1-22

Emilia Trapasso, Zoe Knowles, Lynne Boddy, Lisa Newson, Jo Sayers and Clare Austin (2018). Exploring gender differences within Forest Schools, as a physical activity intervention. Children — Open Access Journal (MDPI)

Presentation: link