Evidence shows that children are increasingly becoming disconnected from nature (Bragg, 2013; ; Charles, 2018; Moss, 2012; Ridgers, Knowles and Sayers, 2012; Sobel, 2008; Waite et. al. 2016). Louv (2011|) calls this situation immoral and unethical and states that “we need to give nature back to our children and ourselves” (p.268). Nevertheless, it is argued that being outdoors surrounded by nature can have a positive impact on children’s wellbeing (Chawla et al. 2015; Faber, Taylor and Kuo 2009; Gill,2014; Gurholt and Sanderud, 2016; Martyn, Patricia, Brymer. 2016; McMahan et. al. 2018; Piccininni et. al. 2018; Swank et al. 2017; Ulset et. al. 2017; Wilson, 2012).
This study investigated the experiences of children aged 8-11 years when taking part in mindfulness approaches outdoors in local nature reserves. Four groups of children and their teachers from four different primary schools visited local nature reserves and took part in various mindfulness approaches. Afterwards the children and their teachers took part in semi-structured interviews. Analysis of the data shows that the children had what might be called transcendent or optimal experiences. Evidence from the study is analysed with conceptions of spirituality (Best, 1996; Hay and Nye, 2006; Schein, 2018), biophilia, (Kellert and Wilson, 1995), friluftsliv (Gelter, 2010) and embodiment (Doddington, 2018; Humberstone, 2015). These concepts are discussed in terms of how they call for a slow pedagogy in contrast to the “take-away pedagogies proliferating in education.” (Payne and Watchow, 2009, p.15). As Louv (2008) states: “It takes time – loose unstructured dreamtime – to experience nature in a meaningful way.” (p.117) It is suggested that these mindful approaches outdoors can perhaps be seen as a counter-pedagogy to the prevailing highly enumerated, tightly timetabled curricula that arguably dominate children’s experiences in schools.
Best, R., & Kahn, J. V. (1996). Education. Spirituality and the Whole Child London: Cassell
Bonnett, M. (2009), Schools as places of unselving: An educational pathology? In Dall’Alba, G. (Ed.), Exploring Education through Phenomenology: Diverse Approaches. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
Bragg, R., Wood, C., Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2013). Measuring connection to nature in children aged 8-12: A robust methodology for the RSPB. University of Essex. Available at: http://rackspace-web1.rspb.org.uk/Images/methodology-report_tcm9-354606.pdf [Accessed 10th January, 2019]
Buber, M. (1970). I and thou (Walter Kaufmann, Trans.). New York: Scribner.
Charles, C. (2018). Leading from the heart of Nature. In The Palgrave International Handbook of Women and Outdoor Learning (pp. 877-888). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Chawla, L. (2015). Benefits of nature contact for children. Journal of Planning Literature, 30(4), 433-452.
Doddington, C. (2018). Education in the Open: The Somaesthetic Value of Being Outside. In Heilbronn, R., Doddington, C., & Higham, R. (Eds.). (2018). Dewey and Education in the 21st Century: Fighting Back. New York: Emerald Publishing Limited.
Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park. Journal of attention disorders, 12(5), 402-409.
Gill, T. (2014). The benefits of children’s engagement with nature: A systematic literature review. Children Youth and Environments, 24(2), 10-34.
Gurholt, K. P., & Sanderud, J. R. (2016). Curious play: children’s exploration of nature. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 16(4), 318-329.
Hay, D., & Nye, R. (2006). The spirit of the child. New York: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Kellert, S. R. & Wilson, E. O. (1995) The Biophilia Hypothesis. New York: Island Press.
Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. New York: Algonquin books.
Louv, R. (2011). The nature principle: Human restoration and the end of nature-deficit disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.
Maslow, A. H. (1964). Religions, values, and peak-experiences (Vol. 35). Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
Maslow, A.H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being, (2nd edn.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Martyn, P., & Brymer, E. (2016). The relationship between nature relatedness and anxiety. Journal of health psychology, 21(7), 1436-1445.
McMahan, E., Estes, D., Murfin, J. S., & Bryan, C. M. (2018). Nature Connectedness Moderates the Effect of Nature Exposure on Explicit and Implicit Measures of Emotion. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1.
Moss, S. M. (2012). Natural childhood (pp. 166-171). London: National Trust.
Moyles, J., Adams, S. and Musgrove, A. (2002). ‘Using reflective dialogues as a
tool for engaging with challenges of defining effective pedagogy’, Early Childhood Development and Care, 172, pp.463–78.
Nelson, P. L. & Hart, T. (2006). Spiritual experiences and capacities of children and youth. The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence, 163, 177.
Payne, P. G., & Wattchow, B. (2008). Slow pedagogy and placing education in post-traditional outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 12(1), 25.
Piccininni, C., Michaelson, V., Janssen, I., & Pickett, W. (2018). Outdoor play and nature connectedness as potential correlates of internalized mental health symptoms among Canadian adolescents. Preventive medicine, 112, 168-175.
Ridgers, N. D., Knowles, Z. R., & Sayers, J. (2012). Encouraging play in the natural environment: A child-focused case study of Forest School. Children’s geographies, 10(1), 49-65.
Schein, D. L. (2017). Inspiring Wonder, Awe, and Empathy: Spiritual Development in Young Children. New York: Redleaf Press.
Sobel, D. (2008). Childhood and nature: Design principles for educators. Stenhouse Publishers.
Swank, J. M., Cheung, C., Prikhidko, A., & Su, Y. W. (2017). Nature-based child-centered group play therapy and behavioral concerns: A single-case design. International Journal of Play Therapy, 26(1), 47.
Ulset, V., Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., Bekkhus, M., & Borge, A. I. (2017). Time spent outdoors during preschool: Links with children’s cognitive and behavioral development. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 52, 69-80.
Waite, S., Bølling, M., & Bentsen, P. (2016). Comparing apples and pears?: a conceptual framework for understanding forms of outdoor learning through comparison of English Forest Schools and Danish udeskole. Environmental Education Research, 22(6), 868-892.
Wilson, R. (2012). Nature and young children: Encouraging creative play and learning in natural environments. London: Routledge.