ResourcesResearchEco-Capabilities: Arts-in-Nature for Supporting Nature Visibilisation and Wellbeing in Children

Eco-Capabilities: Arts-in-Nature for Supporting Nature Visibilisation and Wellbeing in Children

Estimates of mental health disorders and poor wellbeing among children and young people in England are escalating. While maintaining a positive relationship with nature is thought to promote personal and collective wellbeing, children and young people are spending less time outdoors, exhibiting a lack of appreciation for the environment and degrees of ‘plant blindness’. As such, there is a pressing need on behalf of schools to address these issues, and to adapt to students’ needs for a deeper and more purposeful connection with nature. This study aimed to explore the potential of one avenue to achieving this: arts-in-nature practice. This involved utilising arts-based research methods, through which 97 children aged 7–10 drew their ‘happy place’, alongside participatory observations, and interviews and focus groups with artists and teachers, as part of the wider Eco-Capabilities project. Findings suggest that following the arts-in-nature sessions there was a significant increase in the number of children’s drawings which featured nature as a main focus. This was achieved in three ways: by drawing newfound attention to nature; by attributing increased value to nature; and by explicitly placing nature within the purview of wellbeing. As such, we argue that creative pedagogies outdoors likely enhance what we term ‘nature visibilisation’ in children, an outcome necessary for their personal wellbeing and sustainability of the environment. This has significant implications for school practice in relation to how to support children’s mental health and wellbeing, alongside boosting interest in environmental sustainability and pro-environmental behaviour.

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