Effective Approaches to Connect Children with Nature

Effective Approaches to Connect Children with Nature

We highly recommend this engaging and thorough review of the research and literature on principles for connecting young people with nature.

Written by Carla Wilson for the Department of Conservation in 2011, the key messages and examples used are still very relevant for kaiako. This article gives a quick summary of the key sections and you can download the full PDF (20 pages) using the link on the left.

"They need to be outside. They need to explore, get dirty, find stuff, and they need to have fun."  - Daniel Kriesberg
Best practice principles for connecting children with nature
  • Make it relevant
  • Include families, communities, role models
  • Provide opportunities for social connections
  • Promote direct experiences
  • Encourage free-choice learning
  • Foster the role of 'active stakeholder'
  • Target real local issues
  • Promote collective action
Effective approaches for different ages

Carla summarises research and case studies about children's changing ability to explore and understand the world, and how this relates to learning about and in nature. She provides guidance across three developmental stages: Young children (up to 6 years), Middle years (6 - 12 years) and Young people (13 years and older).

"Rather than introducing children younger than 12 years old to complex environmental issues, abstract concepts, and the need for new behaviours, the environmental curriculum should be matched to children’s ability to understand and explore their world. If empowerment is the goal, nature-based play and other activities that foster a love for the earth should be the precursor."

- David Sobel
Connecting children to nature through arts education

Artistic and creative approaches (e.g. drama, storytelling, music, dance, photography, poetry, creative writing, visual arts, film) have been shown to be an important way to facilitate and foster affective knowledge and ‘deepen the emotional connections between people and places' (see references on Pg. 9 of the document). Carla focuses on drama, visual arts and storytelling, with a section on the importance of oral narratives to strengthen our sense of place.

"Stories join together the pieces of our experiences and the experiences of others in a way that gives order, significance and meaning to the chaos around us. What home is without its stories? Without stories, can there be a home? ... Stories can be powerful things. They give shape to our reality."  - Ralph Lutts

Click on the link provided above to download the full resource.