It shouldn’t come as a huge shock to anyone, but a new study conducted by Catherine Broom from the Faculty of Education at UBC Okanagan found that 87% of respondents to the study who played outside as children continued to love nature as adults. 84% called it a priority.
“Developing positive experiences in nature at a young age can influence our attitudes and behaviours towards nature as adults,” says Broom. “It is important to study these childhood experiences in order to develop environmental awareness and action in the next generation.”
The study interviewed 50 students at the university between the ages of 18 and 25. 100% of the women interviewed said they loved or somewhat loved nature. 87% of men said the same.
Of course, it’s a very small sample size and more research is needed, but Broom believes she’s onto something. By making programs available, like Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, a new generation of environmentalists could easily be raised. All you have to do is stick them outside!
But sadly, children are spending more and more time inside affixed to television and computer screens.
“Our findings imply that providing positive childhood experiences in nature, such as outdoor school programs, may help to develop care for the environment in adults,” said Broom. “However, these may not be sufficient unless programs are building knowledge and self-awareness of environmental stewardship.”
What’s clear is that early education in nature is critical to developing an ecological consciousness.
“Students need to learn and have a conscious understanding that the decisions we make each day can influence our environment, such as where we buy our food and how we use Earth’s natural resources.”