Exploring the impact of natural environments on children’s development, learning and environmental identities


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ACES Day presentation by Donald Gray, March 2011

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Exploring the impact of natural environments on children’s development, learning and environmental identities

  1. 1. Exploring the impact of natural environments on children’s development, learning and environmental identities.<br />Donald Gray<br />School of Education<br />© D. Gray<br />
  2. 2. © Marie-Aude Bodin_UNEP <br />
  3. 3. Freefoto.com<br />
  4. 4. Human Affinity with nature<br />The Biophilia Hypothesis<br />“The innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. (Wilson, 1984, p1) <br /> “humans’ inherent affinity for the natural world.” (Kellert, 2005, p3)<br />© Amos Nachoum_UNEP<br />
  5. 5. Biologically prepared learning<br />...both the rewards and the dangers associated with natural settings during human evolution have been sufficiently critical to favour individuals who readily learned, and then over time remembered, various adaptive responses—both positive/approach (biophilic) responses and negative/avoidance (biophobic) responses—to certain natural stimuli and configurations. (Ulrich, 1993, p75)<br />© D. Gray<br />
  6. 6. Embodied Cognition<br />Reason is not disembodied...but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies and bodily experience...The same neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive and move around also create our conceptual systems and modes of reason. (p4)<br />Reason is evolutionary...Reason is thus not an essence that separates us from other animals; rather, it places us on a continuum with them. (p4)<br />...there is no Cartesian dualistic person, with a mind separate from and independent of the body...(p5)<br />Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought.<br />© UNEP<br />
  7. 7. Homo habilus<br />Homo erectus <br />Homo sapiens<br />http://www.bigpicturesmallworld.com/funstuff/bigtime.shtml<br />© UNEP<br />
  8. 8. 4000BC. Start of small settlements.<br />1800s start of modern urbanisation (and schools -1872 compulsory in Scotland 5-13)<br />http://www.bigpicturesmallworld.com/funstuff/bigtime.shtml<br />
  9. 9. 2000<br />1970<br />1980<br />1990<br />1950<br />1960<br />Human History Timeline<br />50 Years<br /><ul><li>Green Revolution
  10. 10. Humans in space
  11. 11. 2 hr circumnavigation
  12. 12. Laser, Color TV
  13. 13. Semiconductors
  14. 14. Minicomputers
  15. 15. DNA</li></ul>Pop.: 3billion<br /><ul><li>Humans on moon
  16. 16. Boeing 747
  17. 17. Pocket calculator
  18. 18. Fax, e-mail
  19. 19. Computer networks</li></ul>Pop,: 3.7 billion<br /><ul><li>Personal computers
  20. 20. VCRs, Cable TV
  21. 21. Space shuttle
  22. 22. Cell phones
  23. 23. CD ROM</li></ul>Pop.: 4.4 billion<br /><ul><li>T.V. Birth Control
  24. 24. Jet,Satellite
  25. 25. H-Bomb
  26. 26. Solar Cells
  27. 27. Xerox, car phone</li></ul>Pop. : 2.5 billion<br /><ul><li>CAT scans
  28. 28. Gene Mapping
  29. 29. CD players
  30. 30. Internet/World Wide Web</li></ul>Pop.: 5.3 billion<br />Pop.: 6 billion<br />Since 1950<br /><ul><li>Population doubles
  31. 31. Energy use goes up four times
  32. 32. Motor vehicles in use goes up eight times
  33. 33. Bicycle production goes up ten times
  34. 34. Gross world product goes up five times
  35. 35. Gross world product per person goes up two and a half times
  36. 36. World trade goes up twelve times
  37. 37. Telephones in use goes up ten times
  38. 38. Computers in use goes up 1100 times
  39. 39. Number of literate people increases by over 3 billion
  40. 40. Life expectancy increases 35%</li></ul>http://www.bigpicturesmallworld.com/funstuff/bigtime.shtml<br />© Victor Azinheira _UNEP<br />
  41. 41. The Anthropocene<br />Refers to the current geological epoch in which human beings and their societies have become a global geophysical force capable of creating global level changes in <br />“i) the biological fabric of the Earth; <br />ii) the stocks and flows of major elements in the planetary machinery such as nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, and silicon; and <br />iii) the energy balance at the Earth’s surface” <br />(Steffen et al., 2007, p614)<br />© Rudolf Gurth _UNEP<br />
  42. 42. Human Impacts on the Natural Environment<br />33,047, or 12.5 percent of plants are threatened on a global scale, may be an underestimate.<br />75 percent of the major marine fish stocks are either depleted from overfishing or are being fished at their biological limit.<br />world’s forest cover reduced by as much as half through logging and conversion.<br />58 percent of coral reefs are potentially threatened by destructive fishing practices, tourist pressures, and pollution.<br />65 percent of the roughly 1.5 billion ha of cropland worldwide have experienced some degree of soil degradation.<br />Coastal ecosystems such as salt marshes, coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses have declined - seagrasses have been disappearing at a rate of 110 km2 yr−1 since 1980. <br />© Lupidi _UNEP<br />
  43. 43. Nature impacts on People<br />Health and Well-being<br />Advanced motor fitness (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft 2001).<br />Stress reduction (e.g. Wells and Evans, 2003)<br />Concentration<br />Children with symptoms of ADHD are better able to concentrate after contact with nature(Taylor 2001).<br />Development and Learning<br />When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000).<br />Exposure to natural environments improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle 2002).<br />Environmental Identity.<br />Experiences in nature are linked to developing environmental identities and pro-environmental behaviour in later life (Clayton & Opotow, 2003; Chawla, 2007; Thomashow, 1996)<br />© D. Gray<br />
  44. 44. Attention Restoration Theory<br />Kaplan, S. (1995) The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward an Integrative Framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology , 16, 169-182<br />Builds on William James’ (1892) – notion of effort in voluntary attention<br />Directed attention fatigue<br />Restorative environments: being away, fascination, extent, compatability.<br />Green play settings improved children's concentration: children with Attention Deficit Disorder were found to function better than usual after activities in green settings. Taylor A F, Kuo F E and Sullivan W C, 2001.<br />Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2008). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders Volume 12 Number 5 March 2009 402-409.<br />© D. Gray<br />
  45. 45. Environmental/Ecological Identity<br />Ecological identity refers to all the different ways people construe themselves in relationship to the earth as manifested in personality, values, actions, and sense of self...The interpretation of life experiences transcends social and cultural interactions. It also includes a person’s connection to the earth, perception of the ecosystem and direct experience of nature. (Thomashow, 1996).<br />Children’s contact with nature, through tending gardens, playing in parks and being in spaces with trees are significant predictors of positive adult beliefs about the benefits of nature. (Clayton & Opotow, 2003; Chawla, 2007; Lester and Maudsley, 2006.<br />© D. Gray<br />
  46. 46. Nature and Learning<br />“For children, nature is the richest, most detailed, and most readily available informational context they are ever likely to encounter” (p69)<br />Stephen R. Kellert. (2005) Building for Life. Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. Washington, Island Press.<br />Results indicate that children whose homes improved the most in terms of greenness following relocation also tended to have the highest levels of cognitive functioning following the move.<br />Wells, N.M. “At Home with Nature: Effects of ‘Greenness’ on Children’s Cognitive Functioning.”<br />Environment and Behavior. Vol. 32, No. 6, 775-795.<br />© D. Gray<br />
  47. 47. Nothing new?<br />John Amos Comenius 1592-1670<br />Jean-Jacque Rousseau 1712 –1778<br />Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi 1746 - 1827<br />Friedrich Froebel 1782 - 1852<br />Patrick Geddes 1854 - 1932<br />John Dewey 1859 –1952<br />Maria Montessori 1870 –1952<br />Kurt Hahn 1886 –1974 <br />Loris Malaguzzi (Reggio Emilia) 1920-1994<br />© D. Gray<br />
  48. 48. But....<br /> © CognitiveMedia 2010<br />http://www.thersa.org/events/vision/animate/rsa-animate-changing-paradigms<br />
  49. 49. Implications for Education<br />School design<br />Stephen R. Kellert. (2005) Building for Life. Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. Washington, Island Press<br />Curriculum<br />LTS (2010) A Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning<br />Pedagogies/Approaches<br />e.g. Place-based education<br />David A. Gruenewald (2003) Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for Place-Conscious Education. American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 619–654<br />© D. Gray<br />
  50. 50. The Times they are a changing...?<br />Curriculum for Excellence: Outdoor Learning<br />Forest Education Initiative/Forest Schools<br />Place-based learning<br />Landscapes for Learning<br />Real World Learning<br />Children and Nature Network<br />Grounds for Learning<br />© D. Gray<br />
  51. 51. Further Research<br /><ul><li>Research is required to identify the types of nature experiences that appear to be most efficacious at each stage and how these influence future dispositions.
  52. 52. The role of key socializerssuch as parents and teachers. How they interact with children and the extent to which that interaction contributes towards the development of their environmental identity and future attitudes and behaviours.
  53. 53. There has been no research that has gathered real time data on nature experiences over a prolonged period of time. This research will require field observations or records, ethnographic field work and interviews with key socializers and children.
  54. 54. Examining the impact of providing children with different levels of responsibility for action can provide further evidence to help understand the processes that encourage development of pro-environmental behaviours.
  55. 55. The impact that different environmental experiences has on learning.
  56. 56. And more .....................</li></ul>© D. Gray<br />