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Renaturing science : the role of childhoodnature in science for the anthropocene

Gray, Donald and Sosu, Edward M. (2018) Renaturing science : the role of childhoodnature in science for the anthropocene. In: Research Handbook on Childhoodnature. Springer International Handbooks of Education . Springer International Publishing AG, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 1-29. ISBN 978-3-319-51949-4

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Abstract

This chapter proposes that there is a need to examine childhoodnature experiences and the way in which these might be influential in shaping an agenda for science and science education in the Anthropocene. A renaturing of science places a much greater emphasis on, and recognition of, the interdependency and relational nature of the natural world in which humans are inextricably embedded and suggests the need for the development of a strong ecological identity (Thomashow, Ecological identity: Becoming a reflective environmentalist. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996). This suggests that there is a need for increased availability of childhoodnature experiences and a focus on the quality of those experiences, as well as the need to explore further lifelong opportunities for developing innate biophilic (Wilson, Biophilia. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1984) tendencies. The chapter examines the childhoodnature experiences of beginning undergraduate university students and how these influence their current relationship to the natural world. Literature suggests that the strength of a person’s nature relatedness can have an impact on the way they view the natural world and can, subsequently, influence the actions they take toward that natural world. This chapter describes a mixed-methods approach used to examine beginning university students’ childhoodnature experiences and how those experiences may have influenced their sense of nature connectedness. Data gathered indicates that there are statistically significant correlations between childhoodnature experiences and current sense of nature connectedness, although the qualitative data suggests that the form of those experiences may be of critical importance. Evidence from the study presented here suggests that exposure to childhoodnature, while necessary, is not sufficient in itself, and further research is required into the nature and quality of childhoodnature experiences. This concurs with previous studies, e.g., Vadala, Bixler, and James (J Environ Educ 39:3–18, 2007), which found that it was the particular qualities of the childhoodnature experience that appeared to play a significant part in shaping future interests, attitudes, and values.