Introducing Young Children To Nature – Survey Report

Chris Rose   chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk

A nationally representative survey (N=2000, representative by age and sex) was conducted for the Fairyland Trust www.fairylandtrust.org in December 2013, as part of the British Values Survey run by Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing, CDSM [1].

The questions were fielded by GMI and each had a Likert scale of options 1 – 5, ‘strongly agree, slightly agree, neither agree nor disagree, slightly disagree, strongly disagree’.  The survey was conducted online using a sample weighted to be representative.

The key question asked for the Fairyland Trust (www.fairylandtrust.org – contact Chris Rose, Director at chris@fairylandtrust.org ) was agreement/disagreement with the statement “it is vital to introduce young children to nature”.  Respondents were also segmented by motivational values.  That analysis will be the subject of a subsequent report.

In total, 85.2% agreed it’s vital to introduce young children to nature.  56.2% opted for ‘strongly agree’ and 29% ‘somewhat’.  Only 6.6% actively disagreed and just 8.1% opted for ‘neither agree nor disagree’.

Chris Rose, Director of the Fairyland Trust who commissioned the survey says:  “The overwhelming support for the idea of introducing children to nature is fantastic news, as research has shown most children now cannot recognize most common wild plants and animals, and some haven’t even seen a bumble bee”.

The poll also found that women agree somewhat more strongly than men, and older people more than younger people.  (Whether or not people are actually engaged in nature is a different matter – see forthcoming blog at http://threeworlds.campaignstrategy.org/ ).

Other evidence suggests that engaging young children in nature has the greatest influence on them as adults [2].  This means ‘young’ as in three to four years of age up to about eight to eleven years.

The report results, graphs and tables can be downloaded here – Report Introducing Young Children to Nature

The survey also included two other statements related to places, magic and folklore: “I am interested in real British folklore, magic, ancient places and legends”, and ”I have a favourite place which makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck”.

[1] www.cultdyn.co.uk – contact Pat Dade, Director, at pat@cultdyn.co.uk

[2] eg (a) Childhood Development and Access to Nature: A New Direction for Environmental Inequality Research, Susan Strife and Liam Downey.   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3162362/ “Research has shown that regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, early childhood experiences in nature significantly influence the development of lifelong environmental attitudes and values”. (b) Richard Louv, Last child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, (Atlantic Books 2010), p 150: ‘In 1978 Thomas Tanner at Iowa State University conducted a study of environmentalist’s formative influences’.  He found that “Far and away the most frequently cited influence was childhood experience of natural, rural or other relatively pristine habitats”.  ‘For most of these individuals, the natural habitats were accessible for unstructured play and discovery nearly every day when they were kids’.  Studies in many countries have replicated his findings and in 2006 Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies went beyond studying the childhood influences of environmentalists; they looked at a broad sample of urban adults, ages eighteen to ninety.  The study indicated that adult concern for, and behavior related to, the environment derives directly from participating in such wild nature activities” as playing independently in the woods, hiking, fishing and hunting before the age of eleven”. (c ) “children younger than 12 were willing to attribute emotional feelings to trees as well as animals, and that their interpretation of a story about a tree “seems to be closely associated with feelings of empathy for the tree and appears to permit them to assume its perspective” Chalawa http://www.peecworks.org/peec/peec_reports/01795CA8-001D0211.34/jdpchawla.pdf

ends

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