Nature Connection Community of Practice

Nature Connection Community of Practice
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 in 2023 we ran a pilot Community of Practice. The focus was on nature connection for young people in Aotearoa New Zealand and we welcomed 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.

In 2022 a group of educators and researchers met online regularly to complete the Nature Connectedness online course from the University of Derby. The intention of the 2023 Community of Practice pilot was to continue this learning, discussion and action-taking, embedding it in an Aotearoa context, and expanding the group to a wider audience. 

Online hui were facilitated by Thea DePetris and Becky McCormack, with reading and actions in between, and presentations and sharing took place in Term 4, 2023.

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.

More Information

What do we mean by 'Nature Connection'?

Our group explored the definition and meaning of 'nature connection' as part of our first sessions, especially in the context of Aotearoa. We had 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.

As a starting point we referred 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:

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.

Update at end of 2023: A core group of about 20 environmental educators from around the country took part in the pilot Community of Practice. We held online learning sessions during Term Two, with a range of guest speakers who shared different perspectives and examples of nature connection projects and events in Aotearoa. We then supported individuals and small groups to carry out actions and embed their learning during Term Three and finished the year with online sharing and presentation sessions in Term Four. Some members connected in person if they were based in the same area and collaborated to facilitate community and teacher events and professional learning.

The group plans to stay in touch in 2024 and check in to share any new learning or examples of practice with the group.