‘Nature makes people happy, that’s what it sort of means:’ children’s definitions and perceptions of nature in rural Northwestern Ontario

Time spent in nature benefits children’s mental, physical, emotional, social, and cognitive health and development. Yet, children are spending less and less time in natural environments. There is still a lot we don’t know about children’s perspectives of their connections with nature and what nature means to them. This study used focus groups with rural Canadian children to investigate how children define, experience, and perceive the benefits of nature. This article is written by HEAL team members Suzanne Tillman, Brenton Button, Stephanie E. Coen, and Jason A. Gilliland.

Findings from study showed three primary themes. First, children defined nature as the sum of many parts based on specific natural elements that they viewed as “a whole community.” Second, children said they experienced nature through actively engaging in natural environment through activities. They also recognized the constraints on those engagements. Finally, the findings showed that children were also knowledgeable about the health benefits, most notably their socio-emotional wellbeing, of nature, and made conscious choices to reap these benefits. More research is needed to explore children’s definitions and perceptions in nature to conceptualize what children see as the benefits of engaging in a natural environment

This study was funded by the Children’s Foundation through Institute through the Children’s Health Research Institute.

“‘Nature makes people happy, that’s what it sorts of means:’ children’s definitions and perceptions of nature in rural Northwestern Ontario” was published in Children’s Geographies, an international peer-reviewed journal based on research relating to children, young people, and families.

Read the full article here: https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2018.1550572

KEYWORDS: children, nature, focus groups, rural, health, qualitative


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