Wildlife and Wellbeing

£25 of £2,210 goal

Raised by 1 person in 10 months
About me

Hello I am Joanna Shelton BSc, MSc, PGCE, Cert Ed.

I studied Psychology at university and found the idea of adult learning and child development and well being fascinating. I went on to do a PGCE, but felt I wanted to teach outside the classroom where children could develop holistically, I trained as a Forest school leader in 2005 and as a Forest School Trainer in 2009. I also have Masters in both Conservation and Education and a Cert Ed for Higher Education. I am a mindfulness based practitioner.

I have worked in education and community engagement for the past 15 years, including as the education and research officer in a zoo, running a project in heritage and environmental education with Groundwork, I oversaw the youth wing of The Wildlife Trusts, I have lectured in animal biology and conservation and I have worked as a museum education officer.

For 10 years I managed the education and community department of a conservation charity, where I worked with ages 3 to 93, including schools, MIND, MENCAP and many other groups and individuals.

I have worked and volunteered in both environmental and heritage education and have volunteered with The Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB and Oxfam.

I have a fascination for Eco-psychology, learning and how we relate to the environment around us. I think a sense of place is fundamental to our well being.

About my project

Children’s mental health has hit the headlines several times this year. There is increasing concern about childhood and teenage wellbeing and this is not just from the popular media.

At the same time the interaction between people and the environment has been highlighted in popular media, with the concepts of “shinrinyoku - forest bathing,” Scandanavian ideas (Finnish forests, Nordic wellbeing) and even invites to visit the zoo all with the aim of helping wellbeing. Research backs this up with the link between exposure to natural environments being well documented (ie in research commission by the RSPB, The National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts). The Wildlife Trusts, in a literature review exploring links between biodiversity and wellbeing. concluded that “Overall there is a large body of evidence from published peer-reviewed and grey literature to suggest that contact with a wide range of natural environments can provide multiple benefits for health and wellbeing” (p5).

In education, this link has been an important part of the development of forest schools, and research has looked at the role of Forest Schools and wellbeing, in particular emphasising personal, social and emotional development, and finding that forest schools have a positive impact on children's mental well-being, and wider well-being.

Further outdoor experiential therapies such as adventure therapy, and wilderness therapy are growing areas of educational intervention. 
Other approaches are also gaining interest; Notably mindfulness in forest settings has been shown to be effective with adults, however much less has been done to explore this relationship in children, despite the increase in mindfulness for schools and young people and animal aided intervention, although it may not be so closely allied with other outdoor therapies, given that it may include interactions with nature.

Aims of research

This research sets out to explore the link between children and young people’s wellbeing and exposure to the natural environment. In particular

·         Do “flagship” species, places and events have a specific impact? Does a “nature rich” environment that is more remote have an advantage over a local environment? Does a forest out do an ocean? Does exposure time have greater impact than biodiversity? What implications are there to habitat management?

·         How does knowledge, understanding and a mindful appreciation of the natural world around children impact their wellbeing?

·         Can a one off high quality interaction with nature have a lasting impact, or can an ongoing lower quality interaction be more efficacious?

·         How do the interventions mentioned above interact and are there preferences in approaches to different populations?

·         Should wildlife and nature wellbeing sessions be aimed at children/teenagers struggling with mental health (interventions) or at the general population (interactions) and what is the impact of these overall?

·         How are the deliverers supported and how is professionalism maintained in a setting that is different from general therapeutic areas?


I am seeking funds to support a PhD. This is £2105 per year for 6 years, part time. I will be working in order to support myself, and fund some of the additional expenses of undertaking the research. 

Thank you!

This is something I have wanted to do for such a long time, and care about deeply. Your support will make a huge difference - the difference between being able to undertake this research and not!

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£25 of £2,210 goal

Raised by 1 person in 10 months
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Caroline Turner
10 months ago
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