New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 241–255 | Cite as

Effects of an Outdoor Education Programme on Creative Thinking and Well-being in Adolescent Boys

  • Helena Margaret McAnallyEmail author
  • Lindsay Anne Robertson
  • Robert John Hancox


We assessed the effects of an outdoor education programme (Tihoi) with no access to electronic media among 14 year-old boys. We compared creative thinking, socio-emotional wellbeing, and materialism with their peers attending regular classes at their normal school. Students at both locations were assessed in the second week of term and after 15 weeks. Boys in the Tihoi programme outperformed those in regular classes on a creative thinking task at both time points. Although the Tihoi group initially had lower scores on some well-being measures, they had small but significant improvements in wellbeing at 15 weeks, which were not observed among those attending normal school. No differences were observed for materialism. A programme of outdoor activity and reduced media exposure may improve creative thinking and wellbeing in adolescents. Encouraging adolescents to replace indoor time with outdoor activities is unlikely to cause persistent psychological harm and may be beneficial.


Outdoor education Electronic media Creative thinking Wellbeing Attention restoration theory 



We would like to thank St Paul’s Collegiate School Staff, particularly Cyn Smith, Jed Rowlands and Peter Hampton, as well as the year 10 students and their parents and guardians who supported this work. We would also like to thank the O’Donoghue family for their initial support of this project. This work was supported by a University of Otago Research Grant and an Oakley Mental Health Research Foundation Project Grant.


  1. AAP Council on Communications and Media. (2016). Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. Pediatrics. Scholar
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Policy statement: Children, adolescents and the media. Pediatrics, 132(5), 958–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atchley, R. A., Strayer, D. L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e51474. Scholar
  4. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212. Scholar
  5. Bowers, K., Regehr, G., Balthazard, C., & Parker, K. (1990). Intuition in the context of discovery. Cognitive Psychology, 22, 72–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10, 456. Scholar
  7. Chen, Y., McAnally, H. M., Wang, Q., & Reese, E. (2012). The coherence of critical event narratives and adolescents’ psychological functioning. Memory, 20, 667–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85–103.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, J., & Griffen, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ferguson, C. J., & Savage, J. (2012). Have recent studies addressed methodological issues raised by five decades of television violence research? A critical review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fuegen, K., & Breitenbecher, K. H. (2018). Walking and being outdoors in nature increase positive affect and energy. Ecopsychology, 10, 14–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goodman, R., Meltzer, H., & Bailey, V. (2003). The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: A pilot study on the validity of the self-report version. International Review of Psychiatry, 15, 173–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hancox, R. J., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2004). Association between child and adolescent television viewing and adult health: A longitudinal birth cohort study. Lancet, 364(9430), 257–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hancox, R. J., Milne, B. J., & Poulton, R. (2005). Association of television viewing during childhood with poor educational achievement. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 159(7), 614–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., de Vries, S., & Frumkin, H. (2014). Nature and health. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 207–228. Scholar
  16. He, M., Xiang, F., Zeng, Y., Mai, J., Chen, Q., Zhang, J., et al. (2015). Effect of time spent outdoors at school on the development of myopia among children in China: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 314(11), 1142–1148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuo, M. (2015). How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1093. Scholar
  19. Landhuis, C. E., Perry, D. K., & Hancox, R. J. (2012). Association between childhood and adolescent television viewing and unemployment in adulthood. Preventive Medicine, 54(2), 168–173. Scholar
  20. Landhuis, C. E., Poulton, R., Welch, D., & Hancox, R. J. (2007). Does childhood television viewing lead to attention problems in adolescence? Results from a prospective longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 120(3), 532–537. Scholar
  21. Landhuis, C. E., Poulton, R., Welch, D., & Hancox, R. J. (2008). Programming obesity and poor fitness: The long-term impact of childhood television. Obesity (Silver Spring), 16(6), 1457–1459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Louv, R. (2010). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. (Rev. and updated ed. ed.). London: Atlantic.Google Scholar
  23. Mares, M.-L., & Pan, Z. (2013). Effects of sesame street: A metanalysis of children’s learning in 15 countries. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 140–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marshall, S. J., Biddle, S. J. H., Gorely, T., Cameron, N., & Murdey, I. (2004). Relationships between media use, body fatness and physical activity in children and youth: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, 28, 1238–1246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mednick, S. A. (1962). The associative basis of the creative process. Psychological Review, 69, 220–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mednick, S. A. & Mednick, M. T. (1967). Remote associates test, college, adult, form 1 and examiner’s manual, remote associates test, college and adult forms 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  28. OECD. (2015). Students, computers and learning: Making the connection. Paris: PISA, OECD Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ohly, H., White, M. P., Wheeler, B. W., Bethel, A., Ukoumunne, O. C., Nikolaou, V., et al. (2016). Attention restoration theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. Journal of Toxicology & Environmental Health Part B: Critical Reviews, 19(7), 305–343. Scholar
  30. Opree, S. J., Buijzen, M., van Reijmersdal, E. A., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2013). Children’s advertising exposure, advertised product desire, and materialism: A longitudinal study. Communication Research, 41(5), 717–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pacheco, E., & Melhuish, N. (2018). New Zealand teens’ digital profile: A fact sheet. Netsafe: Scholar
  32. Pearson, D. G., & Craig, T. (2014). The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1178. Scholar
  33. Richins, M. (2004). The Material Values Scale: Measurement properties and development of a short form. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(1), 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rideout, V., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. (2010). Report: Generation M2: media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Retrieved from Mento Park, CA:
  35. Roberts, J. A., & Clement, A. (2007). Materialism and satisfaction with over-all quality of life and eight life domains. Social Indicators Research, 82, 79–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Robertson, L. A., McAnally, H. M., & Hancox, R. J. (2013). Childhood and adolescent television viewing and antisocial behavior in early adulthood. Pediatrics. Scholar
  37. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sato, I., & Connor, T. S. (2013). The quality of time in nature: How fascination explains and enhances the relationship between nature experiences and daily affect. Ecopsychology, 5(3), 197–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schutte, A. R., Torquati, J. C., & Beattie, H. L. (2017). Impact of urban nature on executive functioning in early and middle childhood. Environment and Behaviour, 49(1), 3–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Strasburger, V. C., Jordan, A. B., & Donnerstein, E. (2010). Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics. Scholar
  41. Strasburger, V. C., Jordan, A. B., & Donnerstein, E. (2012). Children, adolescents, and the media: Health effects. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 59(3), 533–587. Scholar
  42. Strasburger, V. C., Wilson, B., & Jordan, A. B. (2014). Children, adolescents, and the media. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  43. Stroebe, M., Schut, H., & Nauta, M. (2015). Homesickness: A systematic review of the scientific literature. Review of General Psychology. Scholar
  44. Tihoi Venture School. Retrieved January, 31, 2017 from

Copyright information

© New Zealand Association for Research in Education 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Preventive and Social MedicineUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations