Updated: Sep 24
Connecting children with nature is an important aspect of outdoor learning and there are many ways to develop a sense of nature connectedness among children. This blog post explores the concept of "nature connectedness" and why it's essential in outdoor learning.
What is Nature Connectedness?
Nature connectedness is the idea that we have an innate, emotional bond with the natural world around us. It's more than just enjoying a pretty sunset or admiring a majestic mountain range. It's a deep understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things in nature and our role within the living world.
Research has shown that nature connectedness is linked to a wide range of positive outcomes, including increased wellbeing, improved mental health, and even reduced mortality rates (Bratman et al., 2019; Cox et al., 2017; Shanahan et al., 2016). When we feel connected to nature, we are more likely to engage in behaviours that benefit the environment, such as recycling, conserving water, and reducing our carbon footprint (Howell et al., 2019).
Nature Contact vs. Nature Connectedness
It's important to point out there is a big distinction between nature contact (or simply being in nature) and connecting with nature on a deeper level. It's perfectly possible, for instance, to be physically in a natural place without feeling a sense of connectedness to the wildlife or a wider appreciation of our place in nature. It's a matter of perspective and a choice to be more mindful and absorb the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures as we explore the living world. It takes time and effort to cultivate a sense of nature connectedness by paying close attention to what's happening all around us when we are outside.
What Are the Benefits of Nature Connectedness?
So, why is nature connectedness so crucial in outdoor learning? For starters, when we feel connected to nature, we are more likely to spend time outside, which is essential for developing an understanding of the natural world. Research has shown that outdoor learning has a wide range of benefits for children, including improved academic performance, enhanced social skills, and increased environmental awareness (Dettweiler et al., 2015; Kuo, 2015).
Furthermore, when children develop a sense of nature connectedness, they are more likely to care about the environment and take action to protect it. They may become more interested in learning about ecological concepts (cultivating their "nature smarts") and more motivated to make a difference in their communities. In short, nature connectedness can be a powerful tool for inspiring environmental stewardship and creating a more sustainable future.
Overall, nature connectedness is a vital aspect of outdoor learning. By fostering a deep connection to the natural world, we can improve student wellbeing, academic performance, and environmental awareness. So, let's get outside, explore our natural surroundings, and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the world around us.
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Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2019). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(28), 13650-13655.
Cox, D. T., Hudson, H. L., Shanahan, D. F., Fuller, R. A., & Gaston, K. J. (2017). The rarity of direct experiences of nature in an urban population. Landscape and Urban Planning, 160, 79-84.
Dettweiler, U., Becker, C., Auestad, B. H., & Simon, P. (2015). Physical activity, executive functions, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A conceptual review. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(1), 21-30.
Howell, A. J., Passmore, H. A., & Buro, K. (2019). Meaning in nature: Meaning in life as a mediator of the relationship between nature connectedness and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(6), 2143-2161.
Kuo, M. (2015). How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1093.
Shanahan D.F., Bush R., Gaston K.J., Lin B.B., Dean J., Barber E., et al. (2016) Health benefits from nature experiences depend on dose. Scientific Reports, 6, 28551.