RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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60 Children and Nature in the Anthropocene (3) Impacts of young people connecting with nature
Affiliation Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group
Convenor(s) Frances Harris (University of Hertfordshire, UK)
Roger Cutting (Plymouth University, UK)
Sue Waite (Plymouth University, UK)
Chair(s) Sue Waite (Plymouth University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Forum - Seminar Room 4
Session abstract The "anthropocene" (Cutzen and Stoermer, 2000) acknowledges the role of human society in shaping our world and our future. Global environmental change and rapid processes of urbanisation have highlighted the important role nature plays in our lives, in terms of health and wellbeing (Bird, 2007) as well as ecology and livelihoods (Dillon, et al 2005). A growing movement is focussing on the amount of time children and young people spend outdoors (e.g. Louv, 2005; Gill, 2014) and their connection to nature as a way of re-interpreting our relationship to the more-than-human. This session aims to promote discussion on the impact of activities promoting children’s (re)-connection with nature, either through education or in more informal settings and will also explore the long-term impacts of connecting with nature on later life-choices and lifestyle behaviours.
Linked Sessions Children and Nature in the Anthropocene (1): Building and living with natures: more-than-human geographies of children, young people and families in urban environments
Children’s Geographies/GCYFRG sponsored plenary lecture: Childhood is measured by sounds and sights and smells, before the dark hour of reason grows': children's geographies at 12
Children and Nature in the Anthropocene (2) Leaning to be affected: Mapping young people’s more than human relations
Children and Nature in the Anthropocene (4): Impacts of young people connecting with nature
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Reconnecting children and nature: the place of forest school
Frances Harris (University of Hertfordshire, UK)
Forest school is an increasingly common and popular form of learning in the natural environment undertaken in school in the UK. There are many potential lenses through which forest school practice may be studied, and existing research has focussed on a variety of benefits associated with forest school, including impacts on physical health, social skills and communication. This paper focuses on children’s engagement with nature and development of attachment to place while attending forest school. The research method draws on the experience of forest school leaders, with many years’ experience of leading sessions across multiple groups of children. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with forest school leaders, the paper discusses children’s engagement with nature during forest school, and their return to the forest school site out of school time, and in subsequent years. It also highlights how children’s attitudes to nature and the environment change as a result of forest school experiences.
The findings show that forest school enables many children to experience woods, promotes their confidence and enjoyment within such a setting, and encourages children to associate woods with fun and good memories, rather than as scary or dangerous spaces. Children are encouraged to engage in nature without the formality of scientific vocabulary and methodology. Forest school leaders noticed the development of an ethos of caring for the environment, exemplified by concerns about rubbish and damage to the site. There was some evidence of longer-term impact as children returned to sites in subsequent years.
Connecting children with nature: a (wild) legal perspective
Helena Howe (University of Sussex, UK)
This paper forms part of an inter-disciplinary project analysing the role which Forest School participation plays in children’s relationships with nature, and the ways in which their experiences in Forest School might inform children’s understandings of their positioning in relation to environmental issues that span disciplinary domains - ranging from individual and familial domestic practices (e.g., recycling, water use) to local, national and global practices (e.g., relating to land rights or political responsibilities).
Primarily, the paper explores the reasons why ensuring that children develop a connection with nature is significant from a legal perspective. It is argued that such connection encourages personal compliance with environmental regulation and sustainability objectives. But, more importantly, that such a connection will help children develop into informed and emotionally-engaged citizens who feel empowered to challenge dominant legal narratives surrounding nature and to participate in environmental justice processes. In essence, a re-connected generation is more likely to reject perceptions of the natural world that inform much environmental decision-making, namely of nature as a resource bank, fungible and to be valued primarily in economic terms, for a more earth-centred jurisprudence in which truly sustainable legal frameworks can flourish. The paper also reports on some initial findings from a small pilot study of children’s experiences of Forest School, their feelings about nature and their role in environmental protection.
Wild Wood! Creative child-centred methodologies in researching wellbeing in outdoor learning: insights from a longitudinal study
Mel McCree (Free Range Creativity, UK)
Wild Wood is a longitudinal research study, evaluating the impact upon a group of disadvantaged children attending Forest School and outdoor learning over three years. It is in partnership with a Wildlife Trust working in an English primary school with children aged 4 - 10 and school staff. The research investigates ongoing impact in relation to academic achievement, wellbeing and connectivity to nature. This paper presents mid-project emergent findings and explores child-centred research methodologies. The mixed method approach uses trusted measurement scales (Laevers, 2005) in qualitative
observation, interviews, evaluation and focus groups, alongside quantitative school data collection. Child-centred methodologies value the children’s agency and perspectives. The combined qualitative data are analysed thematically using a grounded theory approach. The quantitative data
analysis monitors learning and development and compares the children with class peers not receiving the intervention. Within Year One, five themes emerged: nurture, physical adventure, shared time and space, significant adult role and freedom to choose. A connection was found between wellbeing and session engagement / involvement, impact of weather, nature connection and nurture. Within school, impact shows in four themes: sharing new perspectives, demonstrating knowledge, pride and positivity, and inspiring stories. School data shows changes in learning, development and
attendance.The research indicates that positive wellbeing outcomes may best be served through the 'long way round' of engaging and involving children, respecting their agency and providing nurture. It is clear that the children's involved, agentic participation and school team involvement
and reflective practice improves outcomes.
That’s not MY Gruffalo!
Tracy Hayes (University of Cumbria, UK)
Caroline Larmour (University of Cumbria, UK)
Our presentation will share some Tracy’s research, a qualitative exploration into young people’s relationship with the natural environment made through facilitated programmes. Within her research she makes use of creative approaches, both to elicit data and to present her findings. She purposively aims to write in an engaging and lively manner: using writing as a method of inquiry, it becomes a ‘dynamic, creative process’, a ‘way of making sense of the world’ One of her main approaches is the use of stories, to illustrate key points and to explore particular issues in more detail.
This presentation will start with one of her stories. Caroline will then lead us all in a shared exploration of this story, followed by a wider discussion on the impact of activities promoting children’s (re)-connection with nature. This will focus on the use of familiar stories that may be presented in unfamiliar places. Using stories is an approach with which most people feel comfortable, a familiar method used since ‘ancient times’ based on a recognisable, shared language ‘that contributes to shared meaning’ .
However what happens when the story is ‘moved’ to an unrecognisable, non-shared place?

Richardson, L. (2000) in Denzin, N.k. and Lincoln, Y.S. (2000) Handbook of Qualitative Research 2nd
Ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd

Forest, H. (2006) The Power of Words: Leadership, Metaphor and Story. Proceedings of 8th Annual International Leadership Association (ILA) Conference, Leadership at the Crossroads, 2-5 Nov. 2006, Chicago, IL. CD_ROM. College Park, MD: ILA, 2007