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Understanding, overcoming a fear of the forest

Additional research reveals that "people who participate in outdoor activities tend to be happier than those who do not and that active living may lead to a healthier lifestyle, based on the Leisure Trends Index" while "spending time in the open air and learning outside has also proven to increase students' ability to think creatively and improve problem-solving skills."

The study also found that "students who play and learn in outdoor settings perform better on tests, have higher grade point averages (GPAs), cause fewer classroom disruptions". It also found considerable evidence that "outdoor adventure programs can impact positively on young people's attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions."

In general, the research indicates that among the benefits of outdoor education is an increase in self-concept domains such as independence, confidence, self-efficacy, and self-understanding.

Additional benefits include "enhanced psychological well-being; an increased ability to overcome challenges; a positive impact on leadership competencies; enhanced decision-making skills, general problem solving competencies, academic achievement and academic self-concept. "

Time spent outdoors also resulted in "an increase in personality dimensions such as assertiveness, emotional stability, achievement motivation, internal focus of control, and maturity and reductions in aggression and neurosis.

It was also shown to improve mental strength and interpersonal dimensions such as social competence, co-operation and interpersonal communication skills."

Regarding aspects of health, learning, and lifestyle, the study indicates that outdoor skills programs help to promote lifelong physical, emotional and spiritual well being.

According to the report, "a growing body of studies suggests that contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep: time spent outdoors correlates with increased physical activity and fitness in children; exposure to green space reduces crime, increases general well-being and the ability to focus; children as young as five have shown a significant reduction in the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when they are engaged in outdoor activities in natural settings."

The positive benefits that the research reveals should offer ample evidence for students, and faculty to address professed fears of the forest.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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