(Re-)connecting children with nature

By Joern Fischer

A new project at Leuphana University’s Faculty of Sustainability that I am involved in will focus on Leverage Points for Sustainability. One of the hypothesized leverage points to be examined is that of the connection between people and nature.

As part of my background reading on this topic, I came across an interesting study published in 2012 by Cheng and Monroe. This study focused specifically on children and suggested four important parts of “being connected” with nature (as they are relevant to children): (a) enjoyment of nature, (b) empathy for creatures, (c) sense of oneness, and (d) sense of responsibility. Findings suggested, among others, that family values towards nature as well as having nature near one’s home were particularly important in explaining children’s connections to nature (see Figure 1 in their paper linked above). Moreover, the connection to nature was significantly positively correlated to environmentally friendly behaviours.

To me, this paper was quite interesting because it shows under-explored directions for some potential root causes of unsustainability. Surely children are important in all this – but the fact that “family values” come out significant suggests there is an important role for adults, too.

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One thought on “(Re-)connecting children with nature

  1. Such an important topic Joern, thanks for raising it here. Some great work done (and still ongoing) by Richard Louv, not least his magnificent book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, which is pretty much a manifesto for reinventing childhood in the 21st Century.
    Here in SE Asia, I see an increasing dislocation between children from more affluent and expat families and nature, but also the outdoors generally (meticulously organised sporting events aside). For my son’s last birthday (10), he got a mountain bike rather than more electronic kit like most of his peers – in that sense, very much up to the parent to facilitate the child’s interaction with nature.

    Cheers, Simon

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