Research Paper Title
Promoting Connectedness with Nature through Environmental Education by Anne K. Lieflander, Gabrielle Frohlich, Franz X. Bogner and R. Wesley Schultz (2013)
It has been suggested that a positive human–nature relationship is essential for countering today’s environmental problems. Prior environmental education research has focused largely on knowledge or attitudinal outcomes, and few studies have examined the ability of environmental education programmes to promote connectedness with nature. Therefore, our goal was to (1) examine differences in connectedness with nature among a sample of children with differing ages and academic tracks, and (2) investigate whether environmental education can help promote and sustain connectedness with nature. With a pre-, post- and retention test design, we assessed a comprehensive four-day environmental education programme on water at a school field centre, using the inclusion of nature in self (INS) scale to identify the change in connectedness of 9–10-year-old pupils and 11–13-year-old pupils. We found that younger children and university- track pupils had higher INS scores than older children and general-education- track pupils, respectively. Participating in environmental education resulted in a robust short-term increase in connectedness with nature in both age groups. However, only the younger pupils’ connectedness remained sustained four weeks following the treatment. Environmental educators should keep in mind that strengthening connectedness to nature is more sustainable before the age of 11.
The findings of this research shed light to fellow outdoor and environmental practitioners on outdoor programming. As teachers and instructors, we would like to know the potential impact of a particular activity or programme. Not all activities are suitable for all profiles of participants.
In the case of this research, a key finding was that the degree of connectedness with nature tends to be more sustainable in students below the age of 11. In other words, the impact of environmental programmes lasts longer in those students.
As a practitioner, I observe that students of the same age range tend to face tremendous difficulty when attempting the more physically challenging activities such as climbing, abseiling and kayaking. Their climbs are mostly two to three metres high. A high percentage will not want to abseil from heights above 7 metres. Their awareness and response during kayaking are also a safety concern.
In other words, physically challenging activities might not be very suitable for primary school students unless the activities are altered. If not, the students will only be able to climb only a short distance, as in the case for climbing. Although it could be argued that such height is a tremendous achievement for them, in terms of programming, activity preparation time versus achievement is not ideal. This means that the time and effort it takes to prepare, brief the activity and even the cost of hiring a technical personnel is very high compared to the achievement of the students.
Going back to research, teachers and instructors could instead offer environmental-based activities to younger learners. The activities will typically be more doable and the learning impact stays with them longer.
The findings also suggest that it is better to start teaching about the environment to our children when they are still young. As a parent myself, I do observe that my own kids to be highly engaged and curious about the flora and fauna around them when we bring them out to the parks.
Quoting a famous Malay proverb:
If you want to bend bamboos, do it when they are still shoots.
Liefländer, A. K. , Fröhlich, G. , Bogner, F. X. & Schultz, P. W. (2013) Promoting connectedness with nature through environmental education, Environmental Education Research, 19(3), (pp. 370 – 384) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2012.697545