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Home for future Earth lovers: Foundations of nature-connecting habitats for children
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Modern childhood is increasingly segregated from nature. Yet, children’s nature experiences are first steps for sustainable futures. In this thesis, I research the foundations of habitats that can connect children to nature. I call them nature-connecting habitats.

Five papers in this thesis answer: (RQ1) what is children’s human-nature connection (HNC)?; and (RQ2) what are the requirements of nature-connecting habitats for children? The preschools paper shows that five-year-olds with nature-rich routines have higher HNC than children with nature-poor routines, but it cannot understand which nature experiences are most influential. Hence, the salamanders paper assesses children’s participation in a nature conservation project. Discrepancies between the qualitative and quantitative results reveal an assessment gap with theoretical roots, which impedes the assessment of nature experiences in practical time-frames. To close this gap, the review paper surveys the literature and shows that attributes of the mind, qualities of nature experiences, and attachment to places are all aspects of HNC. The embody paper conceptualizes an embodied approach to HNC to overcome the barriers identified previously, and the toolbox paper operationalises it to develop a toolbox to assess children’s HNC and nature-connecting habitats.

Answering RQ1, results show that children’s HNC is a complex set of embodied abilities. Human-nature relationships that could enable, promote, or assist sustainable development are a set of abilities that children can learn. These abilities are relationships between mind, body, culture, and environment, and progress following non-linear dynamics. This thesis identifies 10 of these abilities of HNC and finds that children learn them in three consecutive phases. Phase one – being in nature – includes feeling comfortable in natural spaces, and being curious about nature. Phase two – being with nature – includes reading natural spaces, acting in natural spaces, feeling attached to natural spaces, knowing about nature, and recalling memories with nature. Phase three – being for nature – includes taking care of nature, caring about nature, and being one with nature.

Answering RQ2, two requirements of nature-connecting habitats are found: significant nature situations and various nature routines. Nature situations that can connect children to nature are characterised by configurations of 16 qualities – qualities of significant nature situations. These qualities are: entertainment, thought-provocation, awe, surprise, intimacy, mindfulness, self-restoration, creative expression, physical activity, challenge, engagement of senses, child-driven, involvement of mentors, structure/instructions, social/cultural endorsement, and involvement of animals. This set of qualities delineates the kinds of nature situations that nature-connecting habitats have to provide. These qualities should be various and recurring to allow children’s HNC to progress – hence, various nature routines. These lists of abilities and qualities form a toolbox capable of assessing where and how children connect to nature, named ACHUNAS.

This thesis sets the stage to develop nature-connecting habitats. Children’s HNC and nature-connecting habitats are not the only intervention to promote sustainable futures, but they might be necessary conditions to meet the ever-shifting target of sustainable civilizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University , 2018. , p. 44
Keywords [en]
Human-nature connection, nature-connecting habitat, children, sustainability, human-nature relationship
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152767ISBN: 978-91-7797-157-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-158-0 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-152767DiVA, id: diva2:1180854
Public defence
2018-03-22, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-02-27 Created: 2018-02-07 Last updated: 2018-02-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Nature Routines and Affinity with the Biosphere: A Case Study of Preschool Children in Stockholm
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Nature Routines and Affinity with the Biosphere: A Case Study of Preschool Children in Stockholm
2014 (English)In: Children, Youth and Environments, ISSN 1546-2250, E-ISSN 1546-2250, Vol. 24, no 3, p. 16-42Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Do nature-deficit routines undermine affinity with the biosphere? We assessed social-ecological features in Stockholm that afford nature experiences and analyzed the accessibility of these natural areas to preschools. We then selected preschools with contrasting accessibilities. The nature routines resulting from differing outdoor possibilities in preschool life were investigated in relation to children’s affinity with the biosphere. Preschools with routines closer to nature have children who are more empathetic and concerned for non-human life forms, and more cognitively aware of human-nature interdependence. We conclude that, nature-rich routines in cities significantly correlate with higher children’s ability to develop affinity with the biosphere.

Keywords
nature routine, affinity with the biosphere, extinction of experience, preschool children, urban design
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114368 (URN)10.7721/chilyoutenvi.24.3.0016 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-03-02 Created: 2015-03-02 Last updated: 2018-02-12Bibliographically approved
2. Saving salamanders: A gap in assessing hands-on conservation on children’s relationship with nature
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Saving salamanders: A gap in assessing hands-on conservation on children’s relationship with nature
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Keywords
significant nature experience, human-nature connection, nature conservation, mixed methods approach, assessment gap
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152763 (URN)
Available from: 2018-02-06 Created: 2018-02-06 Last updated: 2018-02-07Bibliographically approved
3. Human-nature connection: a multidisciplinary review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human-nature connection: a multidisciplinary review
Show others...
2017 (English)In: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, ISSN 1877-3435, E-ISSN 1877-3443, Vol. 26-27, p. 106-113Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In sustainability science calls are increasing for humanity to (re-)connect with nature, yet no systematic synthesis of the empirical literature on human-nature connection (HNC) exists. We reviewed 475 publications on HNC and found that most research has concentrated on individuals at local scales, often leaving 'nature' undefined. Cluster analysis identified three subgroups of publications: first, HNC as mind, dominated by the use of psychometric scales, second, HNC as experience, characterised by observation and qualitative analysis; and third, HNC as place, emphasising place attachment and reserve visitation. To address the challenge of connecting humanity with nature, future HNC scholarship must pursue cross-fertilization of methods and approaches, extend research beyond individuals, local scales, and Western societies, and increase guidance for sustainability transformations.

National Category
Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-151694 (URN)10.1016/j.cosust.2017.05.005 (DOI)000417390100016 ()
Available from: 2018-01-17 Created: 2018-01-17 Last updated: 2018-02-12Bibliographically approved
4. An embodied perspective on the co-production of cultural ecosystem services: toward embodied ecosystems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An embodied perspective on the co-production of cultural ecosystem services: toward embodied ecosystems
2018 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, ISSN 0964-0568, E-ISSN 1360-0559, Vol. 61, no 5-6, p. 778-799Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite arguments justifying the need to consider how cultural ecosystem services are coproduced by humans and nature, there are currently few approaches for explaining the relationships between humans and ecosystems through embodied scientific realism. This realism recognises that human–environment connections are not solely produced in the mind, but through relations between mind, body, culture and environment through time. Using affordance theory as our guide, we compare and contrast embodied approaches to common understandings of the co-production of cultural ecosystem services across three assumptions: (1) perspective on cognition; (2) the position of socio-cultural processes and (3) typologies used to understand and value human–environment relationships. To support a deeper understanding of co-production, we encourage a shift towards embodied ecosystems for assessing the dynamic relations between mind, body, culture and environment. We discuss some of the advantages and limitations of this approach and conclude with directions for future research.

Keywords
affordances, worldviews, social-ecological systems, ‘sense of place’, relational values, cultural ecosystem services
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152765 (URN)10.1080/09640568.2017.1312300 (DOI)000430421700003 ()
Available from: 2018-02-06 Created: 2018-02-06 Last updated: 2018-05-28Bibliographically approved
5. A Framework to Assess Where and How Children Connect to Nature
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Framework to Assess Where and How Children Connect to Nature
2018 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 8, article id 2283Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The design of the green infrastructure in urban areas largely ignores how people's relation to nature, or human-nature connection (HNC), can be nurtured. One practical reason for this is the lack of a framework to guide the assessment of where people, and more importantly children, experience significant nature situations and establish nature routines. This paper develops such a framework. We employed a mixed-method approach to understand what qualities of nature situations connect children to nature (RQ1), what constitutes children's HNC (RQ2), and how significant nature situations and children's HNC relate to each other over time (RQ3). We first interviewed professionals in the field of connecting children to nature (N = 26), performed inductive thematic analysis of these interviews, and then further examined the inductive findings by surveying specialists (N = 275). We identified 16 qualities of significant nature situations (e.g., “awe,” “engagement of senses,” “involvement of mentors”) and 10 abilities that constitute children's HNC (e.g., “feeling comfortable in natural spaces,” “feeling attached to natural spaces,” “taking care of nature”). We elaborated three principles to answer our research questions: (1) significant nature situations are various and with differing consequences for children's HNC; (2) children's HNC is a complex embodied ability; (3) children's HNC progresses over time through diverse nature routines. Together, these findings form the Assessment framework for Children's Human Nature Situations (ACHUNAS). ACHUNAS is a comprehensive framework that outlines what to quantify or qualify when assessing “child-nature connecting” environments. It guides the assessment of where and how children connect to nature, stimulating both the design of nature-connecting human habitats as well as pedagogical approaches to HNC.

Keywords
assessment framework, child-nature-connectedness, human-nature connection, significant nature situations, nature routines, sustainable urban design, environmental education, mix-method approach
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152762 (URN)10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02283 (DOI)000419400300001 ()
Available from: 2018-02-06 Created: 2018-02-06 Last updated: 2018-03-16Bibliographically approved

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