ResourcesResearchIn Pursuit of Nature: The Role of Nature in Adolescents’ Lives

In Pursuit of Nature: The Role of Nature in Adolescents’ Lives

This study draws upon the notion that nature is important to people and explores the role of nature in the lives of adolescents in three California communities. A photographic survey was used to elicit information from adolescents as part of a larger study to assess these communities for factors that support positive youth development. The survey focused on places, people, and activities in the participants’ community. Fifty-eight youth completed the open-ended survey and produced more than 1300 photographs. The survey did not include questions directly focused on the youths’ use of or feelings toward nature or natural areas, but instead examined their overall views of their community for evidence of nature in their responses. The written survey responses and photographs were coded and analyzed using a qualitative software program. Places with written references to or photographic evidence of natural qualities or features were then reviewed for patterns in the activities and the significance of the place (i.e., why the respondent said this place was important). This study confirms that the occurrence of nature is widespread in the places adolescents use, and is highly valued. Three themes emerged relating to youths’ activities, recreation, restoration, and socializing. These activity themes, along with the reasons the youth gave for valuing each place, are discussed. These reasons indicate the developmental tasks occurring in conjunction with certain activities. In particular, tasks associated with social behavior and self-awareness are evident.

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