Dr. Louise Chawla (Journal of Environmental Education, 1998, 1999) found that positive, direct experience in the out-of-doors and being taken outdoors by someone close to the child—a parent, grand parent, or other trusted guardian—are the two most significant factors that contribute to individuals choosing to take action to benefit the environment when they are adults. Dr. Chawla states, "The very fact that a parent or grandparent chose to take the child with them to a place where they themselves found fascination and pleasure, to share what engaged them there, suggests not only care for the natural world, but, equally, care for the child."
The American Institutes for Research® found that at-risk students who experienced a weeklong residential outdoor education program experienced a 27% increase in measured mastery of science concepts, enhanced cooperation and conflict resolution skills, gains in self-esteem, gains in positive environmental behavior, and gains in problem-solving, motivation to learn, and classroom behavior over students who had not had the outdoor learning experience.
The "California Student Assessment Project" (2000) found that students in environment-based instructional programs score as well or better on standardized measures in four basic subject areas—reading, math, language and spelling. The environment-based programs also foster cooperative learning and civic responsibility, using the natural characteristics of the school grounds and local community as the foundational framework for the curricula.
Dr.s Kellert and Derr (Yale, 1998) conducted the most comprehensive research to date on the effects of wilderness-based outdoor education for teenage students. The majority of respondents found the outdoor experience to be "one of the best in their life" and participants reported positive effects on their personal, intellectual, and, in some cases, spiritual development. Pronounced results were found in enhanced self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, autonomy and initiative. These results persisted through many years.