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A Framework to Assess Where and How Children Connect to Nature
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0179-2540
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2018 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 8, article id 2283Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The design of the green infrastructure in urban areas largely ignores how people's relation to nature, or human-nature connection (HNC), can be nurtured. One practical reason for this is the lack of a framework to guide the assessment of where people, and more importantly children, experience significant nature situations and establish nature routines. This paper develops such a framework. We employed a mixed-method approach to understand what qualities of nature situations connect children to nature (RQ1), what constitutes children's HNC (RQ2), and how significant nature situations and children's HNC relate to each other over time (RQ3). We first interviewed professionals in the field of connecting children to nature (N = 26), performed inductive thematic analysis of these interviews, and then further examined the inductive findings by surveying specialists (N = 275). We identified 16 qualities of significant nature situations (e.g., “awe,” “engagement of senses,” “involvement of mentors”) and 10 abilities that constitute children's HNC (e.g., “feeling comfortable in natural spaces,” “feeling attached to natural spaces,” “taking care of nature”). We elaborated three principles to answer our research questions: (1) significant nature situations are various and with differing consequences for children's HNC; (2) children's HNC is a complex embodied ability; (3) children's HNC progresses over time through diverse nature routines. Together, these findings form the Assessment framework for Children's Human Nature Situations (ACHUNAS). ACHUNAS is a comprehensive framework that outlines what to quantify or qualify when assessing “child-nature connecting” environments. It guides the assessment of where and how children connect to nature, stimulating both the design of nature-connecting human habitats as well as pedagogical approaches to HNC.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 8, article id 2283
Keywords [en]
assessment framework, child-nature-connectedness, human-nature connection, significant nature situations, nature routines, sustainable urban design, environmental education, mix-method approach
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152762DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02283ISI: 000419400300001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-152762DiVA, id: diva2:1180848
Available from: 2018-02-06 Created: 2018-02-06 Last updated: 2018-03-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Home for future Earth lovers: Foundations of nature-connecting habitats for children
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Home for future Earth lovers: Foundations of nature-connecting habitats for children
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Modern childhood is increasingly segregated from nature. Yet, children’s nature experiences are first steps for sustainable futures. In this thesis, I research the foundations of habitats that can connect children to nature. I call them nature-connecting habitats.

Five papers in this thesis answer: (RQ1) what is children’s human-nature connection (HNC)?; and (RQ2) what are the requirements of nature-connecting habitats for children? The preschools paper shows that five-year-olds with nature-rich routines have higher HNC than children with nature-poor routines, but it cannot understand which nature experiences are most influential. Hence, the salamanders paper assesses children’s participation in a nature conservation project. Discrepancies between the qualitative and quantitative results reveal an assessment gap with theoretical roots, which impedes the assessment of nature experiences in practical time-frames. To close this gap, the review paper surveys the literature and shows that attributes of the mind, qualities of nature experiences, and attachment to places are all aspects of HNC. The embody paper conceptualizes an embodied approach to HNC to overcome the barriers identified previously, and the toolbox paper operationalises it to develop a toolbox to assess children’s HNC and nature-connecting habitats.

Answering RQ1, results show that children’s HNC is a complex set of embodied abilities. Human-nature relationships that could enable, promote, or assist sustainable development are a set of abilities that children can learn. These abilities are relationships between mind, body, culture, and environment, and progress following non-linear dynamics. This thesis identifies 10 of these abilities of HNC and finds that children learn them in three consecutive phases. Phase one – being in nature – includes feeling comfortable in natural spaces, and being curious about nature. Phase two – being with nature – includes reading natural spaces, acting in natural spaces, feeling attached to natural spaces, knowing about nature, and recalling memories with nature. Phase three – being for nature – includes taking care of nature, caring about nature, and being one with nature.

Answering RQ2, two requirements of nature-connecting habitats are found: significant nature situations and various nature routines. Nature situations that can connect children to nature are characterised by configurations of 16 qualities – qualities of significant nature situations. These qualities are: entertainment, thought-provocation, awe, surprise, intimacy, mindfulness, self-restoration, creative expression, physical activity, challenge, engagement of senses, child-driven, involvement of mentors, structure/instructions, social/cultural endorsement, and involvement of animals. This set of qualities delineates the kinds of nature situations that nature-connecting habitats have to provide. These qualities should be various and recurring to allow children’s HNC to progress – hence, various nature routines. These lists of abilities and qualities form a toolbox capable of assessing where and how children connect to nature, named ACHUNAS.

This thesis sets the stage to develop nature-connecting habitats. Children’s HNC and nature-connecting habitats are not the only intervention to promote sustainable futures, but they might be necessary conditions to meet the ever-shifting target of sustainable civilizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 44
Keywords
Human-nature connection, nature-connecting habitat, children, sustainability, human-nature relationship
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152767 (URN)978-91-7797-157-3 (ISBN)978-91-7797-158-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-03-22, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-02-27 Created: 2018-02-07 Last updated: 2018-02-27Bibliographically approved

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