This paper aims to determine educators' perceptions about the benefits of contact with nature for children's mental, emotional and social health.
The approach was exploratory using qualitative methods. Face‐to‐face interviews were conducted with school principals and teachers as well as professionals from the environmental education industry. Interviews focused on the perceived benefits for children's health from school activities involving hands‐on contact with nature.
Hands‐on contact with nature is perceived by educators to improve self‐esteem, engagement with school and a sense of empowerment, among other benefits. Different types of activities are perceived to have different outcomes. A model is proposed to illustrate the findings.
Activities involving hands‐on contact with nature may have significant health outcomes for children. Further empirical work is needed to determine the extent of the benefits and provide further evidence.
Findings support the value of activities involving nature and provide further incentive to include such activities in teaching curricula. Activities involving hands‐on contact with nature at school may be a means of promoting children's mental, emotional and social health at a crucial time in their development.
This paper addresses two gaps in current knowledge: much research on contact with nature and health and wellbeing has focused on adults not children; despite the popularity of nature‐based activities in schools there has been no investigation into the potential of these activities to promote children's mental, emotional and social health.
Maller, C. (2009), "Promoting children's mental, emotional and social health through contact with nature: a model", Health Education, Vol. 109 No. 6, pp. 522-543. https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280911001185Download as .RIS
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