The widespread environmental degradation characterizing the Anthropocene is a call to address a deteriorating human-nature relationship. For much of history, humans have been deeply connected with and in respect of nature both physically and psychologically, and this bond can be renewed. Doing so is especially important for future generations, as modern youth have less opportunities to experience the natural world and more opportunities to experience the virtual world. A lack of nature connectedness in our youth has clear implications for sustainability and underscores the need for interventions aimed at reconnecting youth with nature. Primary and secondary education is a particularly valuable leverage point for such interventions, and nature-based school landscapes may be a valuable tool in strengthening the human-nature relationship and reconnecting youth with nature. While studies have indirectly linked garden-based learning and connection with nature in youth, research has not yet directly explored the relationship between the two.
My research explores 12th grade students attending Desert Marigold School in South Phoenix. Desert Marigold practices Waldorf educational philosophy with the school’s garden as a primary teaching tool and recreational space. I used arts-based methods to give students an opportunity to visually communicate their perspectives of the school’s landscape through photography and artistic renderings. Students then verbally described and discussed their media in a series of group interviews. Data were then coded and analyzed for themes of connection with nature expressed in the literature. The results illustrate that students connect with nature in a variety ways through the school’s landscape, demonstrating potential for enhanced sustainability outcomes in education.
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