Fueled by Richard Louv’s popular book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, and supported by the organization Children & Nature Network, (which Louv and several others co-founded in 2006) a worldwide movement has been gaining traction to reconnect children to the natural environment. More and more research is being published suggesting that nature play and nature-based learning provide children with benefits across the age range and across diverse developmental areas including: physical health, mental health, learning, motor development, cognitive development, and social-emotional learning.
However, there is a lot more we need to know, particularly about the questions of what works, for whom, how, and under what circumstances. Answering these questions will inform the practice of educators, educational administrators, youth workers, youth program developers, policy makers, planners, and designers, among others.
I have the opportunity to help answer these questions about one of the ways nature promotes children’s and youths’ development – by enhancing their learning and educational outcomes. I am collaborating with the Children & Nature Network and the North American Association for Environmental Education on a new National Science Foundation-funded project called the “Science of Nature-based Learning Collaborative Research Network” (NBL Network). This network is composed of researchers from across the country, as well as practitioner leaders in non-profit, professional society, public education, and museum sectors.
One of the first tasks of the NBL Network is to develop a long-term interdisciplinary research agenda about nature and learning that can serve as the foundation for collaborative studies within the network and as guidance for other researchers and in setting funders’ priorities. One way we are approaching this task is to ask others for their input.
So, help us ask research questions relevant to practice and decision-making.
Do you work directly with children and youth, or develop programs or curriculum? What do you need to know to help you most effectively connect children and youth to nature and to realize the associated learning benefits and educational outcomes?
Are you in a decision-making or policy-making role? What evidence-based information would help you make solid decisions to promote the development and children and youth?
Do you conduct evaluation or research? What do you think researchers need to be studying, and how, in order to provide evidence to enhance practice and policy-making?
For more information about the NBL Network visit the Children & Nature Network website.
And to learn more about connecting kids to nature from national and international leaders in the movement, come to the 2016 Children & Nature Network International Conference and Cities & Nature Summit May 24-27 at the St. Paul River Centre. Join leaders from around the world to hear what others are doing to create nature-rich communities that are so critical to the development, health and well-being of children, youth and families. Learn about the latest research and policies, hear from leading health and urban planning experts, and discover innovations that are bringing new audiences to nature.
Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
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