Forests as Innovative Educational Services for Mental Wellbeing: Evidence and Prospects

In the era of digital learning and conventional classrooms, exploring the potential of forests as innovative educational services for mental wellbeing is an intriguing idea backed by growing research evidence.

  1. Forest Schools and Outdoor Learning

The concept of ‘Forest Schools’, an innovative educational model promoting learning in a woodland setting, is becoming increasingly popular (Knight, 2013). It emphasizes the development of personal, social, and technical skills, providing a holistic learning experience that nurtures mental wellbeing.

  1. Nature as a Stress Buffer

Numerous studies have indicated that exposure to natural environments such as forests can significantly reduce stress levels (Hansmann, Hug, & Seeland, 2007; Park et al., 2010). Therefore, forest-based education may offer a valuable means of minimizing stress among learners.

  1. Enhanced Concentration and Creativity

Natural environments stimulate diverse sensory experiences that can improve focus, attention span, and creativity (Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008). This points to the potential benefits of forest-based learning in terms of engagement and productivity.

  1. Promoting Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness

Interacting with nature has been linked to increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence (Capaldi et al., 2014). Such interaction also fosters mindfulness, a beneficial practice for managing stress and anxiety, which underlines the potential mental health benefits of forest-based education.

  1. Developing Resilience and Problem-Solving Skills

Studies suggest that interacting with nature can promote resilience and problem-solving skills (D’Amato et al., 2017). Given the challenges posed by forest environments, such settings may contribute to mental wellbeing by fostering adaptability.

  1. Fostering Social Skills and Teamwork

Forest-based group activities can encourage cooperation and teamwork, thereby nurturing social skills (Waite, 2011). This form of social interaction can significantly enhance mental wellbeing by reducing feelings of isolation.

  1. Education for Sustainable Development

Lastly, forest-based education contributes to sustainable development by fostering an appreciation and understanding of nature (Sterling, 2010). This not only benefits individual mental wellbeing but also cultivates environmental consciousness and stewardship.

In summary, the potential of forests as innovative educational services for mental wellbeing is supported by a growing body of research. Merging traditional academic learning with nature’s mental health benefits can foster an educational environment that promotes intellectual growth as well as psychological and emotional wellbeing.


Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.

Capaldi, C. A., Passmore, H. A., Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., & Dopko, R. L. (2014). Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(4).

D’Amato, L. G., Krasny, M. E., & Russell, S. J. (2017). Outdoor adventure education: Applying transformative learning theory to understanding instrumental learning and personal growth in environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 48(2), 143-160.

Hansmann, R., Hug, S. M., & Seeland, K. (2007). Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), 213-225.

Knight, S. (2013). Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years. SAGE Publications.

Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 18-26.

Sterling, S. (2010). Learning for resilience, or the resilient learner? Towards a necessary reconciliation in a paradigm of sustainable education. Environmental Education Research, 16(5-6), 511-528.

Waite, S. (2011). Teaching and learning outside the classroom: Personal values, alternative pedagogies and standards. Education 3-13, 39(1), 65-82.

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