UK schoolchildren are vulnerable to transitional stress between primary and secondary school, which may impact negatively upon their psychological health and academic achievement. This is experienced most acutely by children from ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic status (SES) households. Outdoor Adventure (OA) residential programmes are purported to develop behavioural adaptations which enable positive educational transitions of children. Personal, social and academic skills (self-reliance, getting along with others, curriculum alignment) may be best acquired through bespoke nature-based residential OA programmes. A mixed methods study evaluated the efficacy of a bespoke OA programme for developing school children’s psychological well-being and self-determination during their transition into secondary school. Participants were representantives of ethnic minorities and lower SES groups. A bespoke OA residential programme achieved the strongest scale of change in children’s psychological well-being (F (30,69) = 1.97 < 0.05) and self-determination (effect size 0.25) compared to a generic OA residential and a non-OA school-based induction programme. Qualitative testimonies illuminated personal experiences and processes underpinning the perceived changes in the self-determination domains of Autonomy
(the capacity to self-direct learning), Competence
(the ability to complete tasks) and Relatedness
(developing connections with others). Providing early opportunities for children to take control for their own learning through nature-based tailored OA programming improves their psychological well-being and adaptability to combat transitional stress.
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