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Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature
Journal of Natural History Education and Experience
  • Donald J. Burgess, Western Washington University
  • Jolie Mayer-Smith, University of British Columbia
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This exploratory study investigates children’s perceptions and experiences of nature during a residential outdoor environmental education program and contributes to an understanding of how nature experiences arouse biophilia, a love of life and all living things. Using interviews, naturalistic observation, and artifact collection, we studied children’s responses to nature during and following their participation in a residential environmental education program known as Mountain School. We explored how an examination of biophilic sensibilities can help researchers and educators focus on the vital intersection between the individual, environment, and action. Our study suggests that children’s perceptions of nature are varied and dependent on prior experiences. Our study indicates that after spending time in the wilderness program at Mountain School, children’s perceptions of nature changed. Children formed connections with the fauna and flora of the North Cascades. Our use of biophilia as a framework for inquiry demands that we consider what it means to include the larger biotic community in our discussion of educational reform. This research contributes to an evolving understanding of the relationship between people and the natural world.
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Citation Information
Donald J. Burgess and Jolie Mayer-Smith. "Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature" Journal of Natural History Education and Experience Vol. 5 (2011) p. 27 - 43
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