Mindful approaches with primary school aged pupils (aged 7-10 years), in a nature reserve, from the perspective of their teachers

It has been over fifteen years since Louv (2005) stated that children were suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’’ and Miller (2005) warned of the damaging effects of biodiversity loss as people become increasingly disconnected from nature. Since then, numerous studies have aimed to improve children’s nature connection (Barrable and Booth, 2020). However, there are those who contend that the very concepts of ‘nature deficit’ and ‘nature connection’ are both symptomatic and contributory causes of the problem (Dickinson, 2013; Fletcher, 2017). This is because ironically ‘biodiversity conservation has historically sought to separate humans from ‘nature’ to the greatest extent possible’ (Fletcher, 2017, p.230). Moreover, simply providing access to biodiverse environments does not address the fundamental, political, and prevailing conceptual understandings of human and more-than-human relations (Dickinson, 2013; Fletcher, 2017).

This study investigated teachers’ perceptions of children’s experiences of undertaking mindful approaches at a nature reserve. The research was situated within an interpretivist, qualitative paradigm that sought to investigate teachers’ perceptions of the impact of mindful approaches on children’s experiences at a nature reserve. Eight teachers and eight groups of children, from eight different primary schools, took part in the study. The children were aged between 7 and 11 years old and were from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. A representative random sample of the children and all the teachers were interviewed after the visit to the nature reserves. The analysis of the teachers’ responses generated four main themes. These were: pedagogical approaches; contemplative time; ways of knowing; and ways of being. The themes are linked to a theoretical background that contends our relationship with nature needs to be at the heart of a renewed philosophy of education (Bonnett, 2019; Jardine, 2016). Furthermore, it is argued that mindful or contemplative approaches offer a reorientation for education in the West as they allow a withdrawal from an adherence to a ‘frozen futurism’ (Smith, 2000), and present an alternative to an anthropocentric and objectivistic worldview.