The study will help form the basis of crucial research into the impact of Covid-19 on education.
Katie Parsons, from the department of Geography, Geology, and Environment, who until earlier this year has been visiting schools and childcare settings to find out how outdoor learning can help raise children’s attainment and wellbeing, is now turning her attention to the impact of the pandemic.
She told Nursery World, ‘Before the Covid-19 outbreak, many educationalists and healthcare workers had grown increasingly concerned about a reduction in children’s access and use of the outdoor environment.’
During lockdown, some families have had an opportunity to immerse themselves into a natural world that they have been too busy to be part of, while others in city centres may have had greater restrictions on engaging with the natural world.
Ms Parsons said, ‘My aim is to gain an understanding how Covid-19 has affected children’s access to the outdoors.’
Through a series of surveys, aimed at the childcare and early years workforce, teachers, parents and children and young people themselves, the research seeks to find out answers to the following:
- Are children and young people accessing the outdoors more due to being encouraged to go outside each day? Do children and young people enjoy being outside more during this time?
- Or are our children and young people accessing the outdoors less due to lack of access and facilities where they live, the fear of going out or the pressures of new online learning schedules?
Although many teachers and early years practitioners do not have physical contact with children at the moment, Ms Parsons said that they are likely to have an ‘understanding’ of their circumstances through the ways that they are in touch with them.
‘It’s important that they survey reaches a large subsection of society, rather than just those who have access to gardens and green spaces,’ she explained.
‘I am interested to see if, further down the line, as a result of this pandemic, if children have learnt how to cope and become more resilient. And if teachers, through being forced to look at different mediums of teaching, might have a more holistic approach to learning going forward. Perhaps they themselves will have had the time to connect more with nature and will bring the benefits to the classroom,’ she added.
Links to the questionnaires, which can be completed online, can be found below:
- Children and Young People: Survey and Information Sheet.
- Parents and Carers: Survey and Information Sheet.
- Teachers: Survey and Information Sheet.
- Children’s workforce: Survey and Information Sheet.