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This Research Topic is the second volume of the Nature-based learning and development series. Please find the volume one "The Natural World as a Resource for Learning and Development: From Schoolyards to Wilderness"


This Research Topic is the second volume of the Nature-based learning and development series. Please find the volume one "The Natural World as a Resource for Learning and Development: From Schoolyards to Wilderness" here.

Nature, including natural views, elements, and places, is a powerful resource for learning and development. “Contact with nature” – from wilderness vacations to catching frogs, from nature-based school lessons to doing homework with a view of trees – has been tied to increased learning and positive development in hundreds of studies. The discoveries point to numerous low-cost ways to address major societal challenges. With this call for papers, we ask, what are the returns when we invest in nature-based learning and development, and how can we maximize those returns? 

We call for submissions exploring the returns of nature-based settings, programs, and interventions on children’s learning and development, whether in the context of school, after-school programs, childcare, or recreation. 

● Submissions should characterize the “investment” or intervention in detail. For example, in a study comparing “green” and “not green,” how green is green? What kind of green – how well maintained, how large a space? How often and for how long are exposures? Describe treatments (and controls) at the operational level, with photos, example stimuli, detailed procedures in supplemental materials, etc. Where possible, compare the intervention with current approaches to achieving the same objectives in terms of cost, labor, materials, etc. Simple, inexpensive interventions are of particular interest. Discuss contextual factors in your study that may reduce or enhance the intervention’s effectiveness.

● Importantly, “returns” might be, but need not be, expressed in monetary terms, such as in return-on-investment calculations or cost-benefit analyses. Qualitative changes, particularly large effect sizes, lasting changes, changes observed at larger scales, might all be evidence of important returns on nature-based investment. “Returns” might include not only academic achievement but other dependent variables in the larger context of developing children who are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy; productive; and good citizens of society and of the earth. Submissions should argue for the importance of their outcomes.

● Submissions need not demonstrate significant effects. Surprising null findings or unexpectedly small effects in the context of strong previous empirical support and rigorous study design may tell us about the conditions under which, or the populations unfortunately for whom, an otherwise reliable intervention may not work. In these cases, careful documentation of intervention fidelity and description of the setting and engagement with nature is critical.

● Submissions should argue for the importance of their population and context of study. We particularly call for work involving disadvantaged children or youth, such as those with Adverse Childhood Experiences, children of color, children from low-income households, and children with emotional, behavioral, or cognitive disabilities. Of particular interest are studies addressing the equigenic effect (when the impact of nature is relatively stronger for those most at risk or at greatest disadvantage, potentially reducing disparities).

● We call for submissions of any of the following categories: theoretical contributions, reviews, methods papers, evaluations, original research, community commentaries, and perspectives (see

● We welcome submissions from diverse research areas including landscape architecture, education, psychology, child development, environmental education, social justice, learning sciences, indigenous studies, urban environments, and more.

Photo credit: Lizbeth Williams, courtesy of Children & Nature Network

Keywords: nature, natural environments, learning, development, education, ROI

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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