Environmentalism is born with exposure to nature before age 11
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
March 13, 2006
A new study out of Cornell University suggests that environmentalism is born in children who are exposed to nature before the age of 11.
They found that "wild" nature activities in childhood are correlated to adult interest in the environment.
"Although domesticated nature activities—caring for plants and gardens—also have a positive relationship to adult environment attitudes, their effects aren't as strong as participating in such wild nature activities as camping, playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting," said Wells. "When children become truly engaged with the natural world at a young age, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful way—shaping their subsequent environmental path."
Fun in the tidepools
Wells, an environmental psychologist, previously published research indicating that nature around a home can help protect children against stress and boost cognitive functioning.
The new study found that participation in scouts or other forms of environmental education programs had no effect on adult attitudes toward the environment.
"Participating in nature-related activities that are mandatory evidently do not have the same effects as free play in nature, which don't have demands or distractions posed by others and may be particularly critical in influencing long-term environmentalism," explained Wells.
The findings will be published in the next issue of Children, Youth and Environment (Vol. 16:1).
This brief is based on a news release from the Cornell University.