Connecting children and nature with Narrative Journey

The aim of this European Social Fund supported PhD research is to develop and test ‘Narrative Journey’ as a tool that can be used by a range of practitioners working with children, who would like to increase children’s physical, social and altruistic activities and relationships with the natural world.

For over three decades research has been telling us that a relationship with nature is beneficial to the human condition. Nature positively impacts on children’s health and well-being, social capital and environmental altruism.

For the past three years, Eden’s play project has developed a pedagogic method, Narrative Journey, in response to children’s declining exposure to the natural world. It employs themed adult-narrated stories that deliberately introduce key concepts (narrative cues) during nature experiences. However, there is very little evidence showing how children narrate their own nature experiences, or to what extent narrative can be used as a tool to encourage children’s attachments with nature.

Behaviour Mapping will record children’s physical actions during a play session (facial expressions, body language, physical movements), and contextual environmental data, including place location (e.g. playing in mud), play props (e.g. twigs, water), play partners (siblings, friends, parents), weather, time of day/week, seasonal differences and geographical markers.

Dialogic Mapping will record children’s dialogues and monologues in natural settings, using discourse analysis to analyse textual data and map this onto place-based descriptions of objects and the environment.

Additional methods will include the practitioner/researcher’s journal and reflective accounts and children’s reconstructed stories of play activities. Data will be collected using Go-pro helmet or chest worn camera, and coding schemes will be developed using Noldus Observer XT software.

This project is being conducted with the help of the Eden Project and Zelda School.