Playing with Poetry, Poetic Representation of Research in Children’s Geographies of Nature and Adventurous Play

Children’s interaction with nature is known to be beneficial to their physical, mental, and social well-being, all of which have been documented from a traditional approach.  The research team, composed of Stephanie E. Coen, Suzanne Tillmann, Christina R. Ergler, Cara McGuire, and Jason A. Gilliland, questioned whether unconventional forms of representation would add benefits to their study and advance their aim to spotlight children’s voices. This study explores children’s experiences with nature and adventurous play using poetic representation. Poetry, as an evocative form of representation, creates a different experiential relationship for the audience, prompting readers to connect emotionally with themselves and others. Poetry can also package research into consumable formats for various types of audiences, including children. It can potentially be a very effective tool for translating research knowledge in impactful ways. This goal of this study was not to valorize poetic representation as a “better” or more “natural” way of getting at children’s perspectives; rather this technique is conceived as a way to expand researchers’ toolkits to generate and communicate knowledge about children’s experiences.

The study involved classroom-based activities with 8-10 year olds in New Zealand. Students completed two drawings: one of nature and one of adventurous play in nature. While the students were drawing, a researcher moved around the room and engaged them in discussion about what they put on the page. The team observed that despite drawing individually, it was very much a collective activity, as the children spoke with each other as well as the researcher about the images they were creating. The language used by the students to talk about their drawings stood out to the researchers as very “colourful, vibrant and rather poetic”. The team turned to poetic techniques that have been used in qualitative research, but have been used less often in children’s geographies. The paper argues that poetic techniques have the potential to bring us into children’s experiences in new ways. The team hopes that extending poetic representation to children’s research will open up permission for researchers to take up more playful approaches as part of methods to energize academic inquiry.

“Playing with Poetry: Poetic Representation of Research in Children’s Geographies of Nature and Adventurous Play” is published in GeoHumanities, a journal of the American Association of Geographers

Read about the full study here:

Keywords: Children, Environment, Well-being, Poetry, Drawings


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