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.