TEACH-OUT: physical activity, learning and social relations in the Danish udeskole
Aim and purpose
In Denmark, as in many other countries, there is a growing concern about the health of children. In the current obesity epidemic, for example, 21% of girls and 15% of boys are overweight due to their lifestyles and lack of physical activity (Pearson et al., 2005).
It is well documented that physical activity among children reduces a number of health risk factors such as blood lipids, insulin resistance, hypertension and body fatness, both in the short and long term (Andersen et al., 2006; Kimm et al., 2005; Riddoch & Boreham, 1995).
Benefits of regular outdoor teaching
Udeskole is a broad term in Danish referring to curriculum-based teaching outside of school in natural and built environments on a regular basis. Udeskole targets school children aged 7 to 16, and is characterised by educational activities outside the school buildings on a regular basis (i.e. one day weekly or fortnightly) in either natural or cultural settings (Bentsen, Jensen, Mygind, & Randrup, 2010; Jordet, 1998, 2003, 2007).
The typical aim and function of udeskole is to make use of an environment to teach often abstract academic concepts and skills in a more concrete and illustrative way. For example, by measuring and calculating the volume of trees in Mathematics, writing poems in and about nature when teaching languages, or visiting historical significant places in History or religious education (Mygind, 2005; Bentsen, Mygind & Randrup, 2009). Thus, udeskole has been used as a way to facilitate learning and understanding processes in children, increase children’s physical activity, and to provide a motivating health promoting school setting. Udeskole has been observed to influence positively children’s physical activity, learning, social relations and attitudes to school. From a few udeskole offerings in Denmark in 2000, the number has increased to more than 290 schools in 2012.
The overall aim of TEACHOUT is to achieve evidence on the strengths and areas in need of further attention in udeskole. The main research question is: Do the alternative teaching practices of udeskole increase and improve children’s physical activity, academic learning, social interaction and attitudes to school?
The objective of the research to be conducted at Steno is to study the potential impact of udeskole on physical activity among pupils in primary and lower secondary schools.
A specific focus in this research project is whether children who are classified as overweight, having special needs, or from minority groups will benefit from udeskole in relation to health, social integration as well as academic success. This project will provide evidence on whether udeskole is a relevant supplement to both health promotion and primary education in Denmark and elsewhere.
Design/method and theory
In a quasi-experimental research design, pairs of parallel classes will be identified in Danish schools – where one class practices udeskole at least one day every week and one does not. We will collect data over a two year period, where approximately 15 class pairs will be studied the first year and another 15 pairs the following year, i.e. 30 pairs on school classes in total. This will allow studying the effects of udeskole among 600 udeskole pupils as compared to 600 control pupils. Quantitative measurements of physical activity and overweight will be collected each year. Physical activity will be measured over seven consecutive days using GT3x+ accelerometers.
Based on case studies and health promotion theory, we hypothesise that learning processes taking place in the settings of udeskole are motivating and effective while also increasing the intensity and duration of physical activity of the pupils.
Children and adolescents in Denmark and abroad constitute the main target group, with a view to increase physical activity and thereby maintain their health.
In addition, we are targeting various professional groups working with children and adolescents (such as teachers and professionals) in local and national administrations regarding recommended teaching and learning approaches.
In the on-going debate about physical activity and the problems of inactive and overweight children, it is relevant to know whether udeskole is an effective supplement to formal Physical Education and physical exercise and if it can make a significant contribution to health promotion of children.
We expect the project findings to provide a solid evidence base for future decisions on whether and how udeskole should be an integrated part of the Danish Folkeskole (primary school system).
We also expect to gain increased insights on physical activity patterns and health outcomes related to udeskole.
The Tryg Foundation, with DKK 9 million over three years. Partners otherwise contribute with own resources.
University of Copenhagen (Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN)
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports (NEXS)), University of Southern Denmark, SHPC, municipalities and primary schools in Denmark.
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Bentsen, P., Jensen, F., Mygind, E., & Randrup, T. B. (2010). The extent and dissemination of udeskole in Danish schools. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 9(3), 235-243.
Bentsen, P. & Jensen, F.S. (2012). The nature of udeskole: theory and practice in Danish schools. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 12(3), 199-219.
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Mygind, E., Nielsen, G., Otte, C.R., & Bentsen, P. (2015). TEACHOUT: Physical Activity, Learning and Social Relations in Danish udeskole. European Educational Research Association Conference (ECER) 2015, 9th of September, Corvinius University of Budapest, Hungary.
Waite, S., Bølling, M., & Bentsen, P. (2015). Nothing Compares?: Reflections on Cross-cultural Work in the Field of Outdoor Learning. European Educational Research Association Conference (ECER) 2015, 9th of September, Corvinius University of Budapest, Hungary.
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Bentsen, P. (2014). Schools. Arenas of intervention roundtable “speed dating” session. Invited speaker. Welcome to health in Sustainia: launch event for the Sustainia guide to co-creating health. 28th of May, Nørrebro, Denmark.
Passy, R.., Waite, S., Bentsen, P., Gough, N., Ho, S., Mygind, E., D’Rosario, V., & Stewart, A. (2013). Policies of outdoor learning: lessons from an international comparison. The Sixth International Outdoor Education Research (IOERC) Conference. November, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Hartmeyer, R. & Bentsen, P. (2013). Targeting different individuals: how teaching in informal learning environments develops pupils’ knowledge. European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE) Seminar ‘Urban nature: inclusive learning through youth work and school work’. 6th of June, Stockholm, Sweden.
Waite, S., Bølling, M. & Bentsen, P. (2016). Comparing apples and pears?: a conceptual framework for understanding forms of outdoor learning through comparison of English Forest Schools and Danish udeskole. Environmental Education Research [in press; DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2015.1075193].
Sidst opdateret 11-07-2016