“Something very special happened out there”: Student experiences of connection to nature.

Mr David Hayward1,2, Dr Heidi Smith2, Dr David Moltow2

1St Patrick’s College, 2University of Tasmania

If 21st century Outdoor Education is striving to define its purpose (in at least the Australian curriculum if not many other countries such as Britain, Canada and New Zealand) in a manner of “post hoc rationalization of existing practice”,  then human relationships with nature and connections to place emerges as an increasingly important field of inquiry.

The past two decades have seen a growing body of literature  critique ‘traditional’ neo-Hahnian approaches to outdoor education. In conjunction with this critique is a consistent call for a deeper understanding of the student’s subjective response to field experiences

In light of this, this presentation will share findings from a research project that explored the student experience of nature connection in the affective domain during an extended wilderness experience. Personal narratives of the researcher’s own experience are shared first, followed by early findings from initial teacher educators in terms of how they feel and experience connections to nature.

The research synthesises Martin’s (2005) human to nature relationships signposts and the Affective Domain Taxonomy (Krathwohl, Bloom & Masia, 1964) to create a conceptual framework through which to understand and elucidate the emotional experience of nature connection.

Ruminations of how to teach deep nature connection explicitly to students will also be shared.

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