Conference Papers

Being immersive and subversive in nature. A study of the experiences of children from four different primary schools taking part in mindful approaches in local nature reserves.

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.

References

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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]

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Gill, T. (2014). The benefits of children’s engagement with nature: A systematic literature review. Children Youth and Environments24(2), 10-34.

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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 medicine112, 168-175.

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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 Therapy26(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 Psychology52, 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 Research22(6), 868-892.

Wilson, R. (2012). Nature and young children: Encouraging creative play and learning in natural environments. London: Routledge.

Adams, D. and Beauchamp, G. (2019) 'Being immersive and subversive in nature. A study of the experiences of children from four different primary schools taking part in mindful approaches in local nature reserves.', paper presented to The 15th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 27–28 June, viewed 17 January 2020, <https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=10130>

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