The TEACHOUT study aims to evaluate the impacts of education outside the classroom (EOtC) on Danish school children’s physical activity, social relations, motivation, well-being, and learning in a quasi-experimental, cross-disciplinary study. Sixteen schools participated, containing 19 EOtC school classes and 19 parallel non-EOtC classes, with a total of 834 children aged 9 to 13 years.
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 children’s learning and understanding processes, increase their physical activity, and 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 cases 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 issues 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 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.
The TEACHOUT study represents a holistic multidisciplinary approach to educational and school health promotion research through its study design and combination of scientific disciplines and methods, as well as its focus on the interdependent relations between learning, physical activity, social relations, well-being, and motivation. This will result in a comprehensive picture of school health promotion and children’s health and well-being, which will broaden the understanding of the potential benefits of EOtC in school health promotion and primary education. These results can be used to inform and guide future policy and practice
The Danish TrygFoundation, with approx. DKK 7 million over four years. Partners otherwise contribute with own resources.