Connecting with nature should be part of every child’s life as it has the potential to aid nature’s revival while benefiting the child. However, to embed nature connection within our social norms, there is a need to understand the benefits a connection with nature can bring. In order to supply evidence to support greater integration of nature into children’s lives, we were commissioned by the RSPB, through funding from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, to look at the links between connection with nature, education, well-being and pro-nature behaviours.
The report was published yesterday. It presents findings on the impact of connection to nature from a survey of 775 children. The results demonstrated that compared to those with lower nature connection, children who were more connected to nature had significantly higher English attainment (Year 6 SATs results), higher health, life satisfaction, pro-environmental behaviours and pro-nature behaviours.
The analysis also found strong relationships between nature connection and pro-nature behaviours and pro-environmental behavior. An association was also evident between connection to nature and days spent outdoors, and days spent in nature – suggesting that more time spent in nature is associated with child’s connection to nature. Finally, connection to nature was found to be as important to children’s educational attainment achievement as life satisfaction and attendance at school.
The research confirmed that associations between well-being and a connection to nature found in adults can be found in children, while also highlighting specific educational benefits for children. This suggests that nature should be part of every child’s life.
Embedding nature connection within our social norms is best started in childhood. Rather than frame nature as a resource and place for occasional outdoor learning, there is a need for a more embedded and nuanced approach to ensure greater connection to nature. That is, there is a need to ensure contact with nature that highlights the enjoyment and wonder of it, while recognising our place within the natural world.