All excerpts from findingnature.org.uk

Nature Knowledge or Nature Connection: Which accounts best for Pro-Environmental Behaviours?

Connecting Children with Nature: By Nature Trails and Learning or through Art?

Beyond Knowing Nature – 5 Pathways to Nature Connection


  • However, the brain feels before it thinks, so if developing a meaningful connection with nature is your goal, those activities need to be widened to include some of the pathways.


  • When creating nature-based artwork we must make contact with nature, find and express emotion and find meaning – which can bring about compassion for nature.


  • A third study in the paper considered a ‘Creative Arts Contest’ where children were encouraged to gain inspiration from nature-based sources and incorporate them into a variety of artistic projects, from writing and photography, to painting, drawing and sculpture. The time spent in nature varied, but was many hours over a month and submissions were entered into a contest for publication in a calendar.


  • So, overall, the results suggest that being outdoors, learning about the environment, being distracted by clues and pursuing marked stations on a nature trail is not a great pathway to increased connection to nature. Likewise a computer-based educational hike learning about animals and plants isn’t either. Engaging with nature through the arts however did increase children’s connection to nature


  • To normalise the value of nature, we should focus on the everyday nature about us. And this focus should not be to know and to identify. We’re driven to know, to understand, be smarter, to walk further, to run faster, to climb, to cross, to conquer, to progress – and to consume. Whereas the remedies for our current disconnection with nature are in less purposeful activities, simple contact with nature involving emotion.


  • In summary, researchers and practitioners interested in facilitating nature connectedness and its associated benefits should ensure activities involve contact, meaning, emotion, compassion and engaging with nature’s beauty. The pathways also provide alternative values and frames to the traditional knowledge and identification routes often used by organisations when engaging the public with nature.


  • Contact – The act of engaging with nature through the senses for pleasure e.g. listening to birdsong, smelling wild flowers, watching the sunset.
  • Beauty – Engagement with the aesthetic qualities of nature, e.g. appreciating natural scenery or engaging with nature through the arts.
  • Meaning – Using nature or natural symbolism (e.g. language and metaphors) to represent an idea, thinking about the meaning of nature and signs of nature, e.g. the first swallow of summer.
  • Emotion – An emotional bond with, and love for nature e.g. talking about, and reflecting on your feelings about nature.
  • Compassion – Extending the self to include nature, leading to a moral and ethical concern for nature e.g. making ethical product choices, being concerned with animal welfare.

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