Nature Connection in Aotearoa New Zealand
The New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE) is committed to building capability and supporting networking for our community of educators. As part of our support this year, we will be piloting a Community of Practice. The focus will be on nature connection for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand and we welcome participation from interested teachers, educators, researchers, organisations and individuals working with children and young people.
A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and want to learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
Last year a group of educators and researchers met online regularly to complete the Nature Connectedness online course from the University of Derby. The intention of this Community of Practice is to continue this learning, discussion and action-taking, embedding it in an Aotearoa context, and expanding the group to a wider audience.
Involvement is likely to be monthly online hui facilitated by Thea DePetris and Becky McCormack, with reading and actions in between, and possibly sub-groups forming to meet more regularly. You can read more in the sections below.
Registrations of interest have now closed and we will begin our shared learning sessions in Term Two. Please get in touch using the Contact function on our website if you would like to find out more or join any future Community of Practice groups.
We will be sharing some of the learning resources more widely, so check back on this page regularly or search within our Resources and Professional Learning catalogues, using the filter: Hauora | Nature Connection.
What do we mean by 'Nature Connection'?
Our group will explore the definition and meaning of 'nature connection' as part of our first sessions, especially in the context of Aotearoa. We predict there will be many discussions about te ao Māori and other Indigenous worldviews, the effects of colonisation and consumerism on our connection with the land and nature, and whether the term itself reinforces the distinction and therefore separation between us and nature. We're looking forward to these rich, complex conversations and value input from a range of perspectives and experiences!
As a starting point we will refer to the research and resources from Miles Richardson and his Nature Connectedness team at the University of Derby, UK. Based on years of research and community projects, they have created the Nature Connection Handbook, which is a great place to start for an overview of what nature connection can look like, the many benefits for people and nature, and and how we can strengthen our relationship with nature:
Nature connection is about our relationship with nature – how we think about, feel about, and experience nature. When we feel very close to nature, we recognise ourselves as part of the natural world, and value our relationship with it. We notice nature, seek it out, and feel happy when we are in it.
You can read more on Miles' Finding Nature blog, where he summarises the research in an accessible way.
There are some great examples of Nature Connection in practice here in Aotearoa, including resources and programmes from these organisations:
- Whenua Iti Outdoors: Nature Connection activities
- Department of Conservation: Seasonal nature connection slideshows, and the 50 Things to Do in Nature project
- Kids Greening Taupō: Nature Connectors
What is a Community of Practice?
A Community of Practice can occur within a work team, across organisations, or just with individuals who share a common interest. They can be short-term and focused on a single topic, or they can be ongoing with a focus on topics or issues that emerge over time.
Effective Communities of Practice focus on three core elements:
- Domain: What do we care about? What is the focus around which we are gathering?
- Community: Who are the people to engage in this Community of Practice? What expectations do we have about their participation and contributions?
- Practice: How will we gather? How frequently, what technology, what other practices will we build into our Community of Practice?
Reference information from: CommunityNet Aotearoa
Who will take part and what will we do?
We hope the group will include a diverse range of educators, researchers and practitioners who have a focus and interest in the wellbeing of children and young people, and the environments where they live and learn. We will draw upon research and resources from international and local contexts and use these to develop our focus, actions and ways of working as a group.
If the group is large or the discussions evolve into specific topics we may break up into smaller groups, for example we could explore nature connection during the different developmental stages (early learning, middle years, adolescence), explore te ao Māori perspectives of nature connection, or focus on strengthening nature connection in adults who act as role models for young people (teachers, educators, parents) . This may lead to learning and actions around how we might evaluate nature connection and its benefits for young people and adults.