Research Topic

The Natural World as a Resource for Learning and Development: From Schoolyards to Wilderness

About this Research Topic

Children, and humans across the lifespan, are increasingly losing contact with nature. Many live in highly developed settings with relatively few natural elements or views; others have access to some forms of nature but spend time indoors. What are the consequences of this shift for children –– their academic ...

Children, and humans across the lifespan, are increasingly losing contact with nature. Many live in highly developed settings with relatively few natural elements or views; others have access to some forms of nature but spend time indoors. What are the consequences of this shift for children –– their academic achievement, what they know and don’t know, their values and abilities, and who they become? And what are the consequences for the rest of us?

Increasing evidence suggests that the natural world may be a powerful resource for learning and development. “Contact with nature” ranging from wilderness vacations, to catching frogs in a drainage ditch, to doing homework with a view of trees is increasingly tied to positive outcomes. These discoveries raise the tantalizing potential of identifying low-cost ways to address major societal challenges: boosting academic achievement, reducing the achievement gaps between different ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and countering the rise in various mental and physical disorders.

We welcome submissions on the natural world as a resource for learning and development.

Content of Interest
• Operationalizing contact with nature through program or landscape design
• Dosage, frequency, and “active ingredients”
• Mechanisms by which nature affects learning
• Characteristics of the learner, setting, teaching approach, etc. that affect the impact of nature on learning
• The impact of nature contact on learning and development at different stages of life
• Contributions of nature-based learning to addressing the achievement gap
• Application to educational and other settings
• Advances in research methods

Although not exhaustive, the following sample article topics would be welcome:
• Which “green” schoolyard designs and types of infrastructure lead to desired outcomes?
• How frequently, and for how long, do college students need to spend time in nature for academic benefits to be realized?
• What is the role of stress reduction and relaxation in nature’s impact on learning?
• How does the degree of structure in play influence the kinds of developmental outcomes resulting from playing in nature?
• To what extent does participation in nature-based activities promote cognitive vitality and development in older adults?
• How might nature-based learning be especially effective for at-risk students?
• How can teachers and administrators be convinced to engage students in nature-based learning in formal education?
• How can GIS/epidemiological methods be most effectively used for studying learning and nature?

In addition to theoretical contributions, reviews, methods papers, evaluations, and original research, we welcome submissions in two less common categories. Community commentaries are companion pieces to original research articles reporting on community-based research; they provide a vehicle for community partners involved in the research to provide their perspective on the research process, findings, or implications. Perspectives are articles by practitioners – educators and educational administrators, environmental education practitioners, policy makers or implementers, designers, advocates, funders, etc. – to providing their viewpoint on the field of learning and nature. Perspectives may discuss current advances or future directions, and may include original data as well as personal insights and opinions.

We welcome submissions from diverse research areas including landscape architecture, education, psychology, child development, environmental education, social justice, indigenous studies, urban environments, and more.

Photo credit: Lizbeth Williams, courtesy of Children & Nature Network


Keywords: nature, natural environments, learning, development, education


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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