As part of an education class on human development, all of our graduate students complete a research project on a topic of our choice, related to environmental education, culture, and human development. I chose to do my research on ecophobia, or fear of nature, and have included a reasoning of why I chose this topic, as well as a summary of my results. My main method of research was reading articles and books and synthesizing the information presented. Works are cited at the end; if you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend these books.
Reasoning for researching this topic
As children grow up, they are influenced by the authority figures in their life, their own life experiences, and the time/place they grow up in. All of these influences play into the presence or absence of ecophobia (or ecophilia) in an individual’s life, and how those feelings are expressed. Ecophobia/ecophilia plays a huge role in environmental education, because whether in nature or not, how someone perceives the environment affects their reaction towards nature. This is important for environmental educators to keep in mind, since people’s reactions should factor into the design and delivery of a program.
Summary of findings
Influences/Causes of ecophobia:
- (Uncontrollable) frightening situation of object that individual experiences
- Seeing or hearing about #1 (above) from someone else
- Cultural or religious belief
Wilderness and the American Mind
In this book, Nash tracks the American perceptions of nature, from colonial time to current time. In general, the greater the quantity of uncontrollable wilderness (nature) exists, the more Americans feared nature. As we developed into present times and began to live in cities or suburbs instead of fighting every day to survive in the wilderness, we began to perceive the same nature in a romanticized light. Additionally, as the “supply” of nature decreased, demand began t increase. Nash has a nice chart in one of the last chapters that diagrams this trend of valuation of nature based on supply and demand.
However, while this figure makes sense, it is impossible separate the progression of knowledge as it was gained over the years, and the migration of most Americans from living with nature to living on the edges of nature. The idea of the progression of knowledge and understanding of nature is important as it relates back to the third cause of ecophobias (see above), but as it happened at the same time as the migration away from living in wilderness, it is hard to distinguish what actually led to the Romantic movement.
Beyond Ecophobia and Last Child in the Woods
The premise of Beyond Ecophobia is that we need to provide developmentally appropriate environmental education, and cultivating a sense of place and wonder before we ask youth to “save the world”. Richard Louv also echoes these ideas in his book Last Child in the Woods, as well as the idea of crime as a deterrent to spending time in nature, and accessibility problems in getting to nature. All of this, he argues, has led to a generation that is completely out of touch with their natural world, and this has led to a whole host of problems in school, with environmental degradation, with relationships, and more. Louv would say that the main cause of ecophobia is inexperience with nature. This is a developmental topic because it influences so much more than just interactions with nature. It is also a cultural issue, as the place you live in and the people you are surrounded by, influence perceptions of nature.
I think it is important to distinguish between fear of nature and fearlessness, because while some degree of fear is healthy in helping people to avoid dangerous situations (like our ancestors did with snakes and lightning), it is not healthy if our actions and responses are out of our control, or irrational. The result of such fear is not healthy for us, the environment, or our society. Knowing the causes and trends of ecophobias, it makes it easier to appropriately design and deliver an environmental education program that will be successful, as in the Listening to Children article.
Nash, Roderick Frazier. Wilderness and the American Mind. 4th ed. Yale University Press, 2001.
Sobel, David. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. The Orion Society, 1996.
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature deficit disorder. 2nd ed. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008.
Burgess, Donald J., Jolie Mayer-Smith. Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature. The Journal of Natural History Education and Experience, Volume 5 (2011).
Almost every week, we will publish a “Emerging Naturalist” post- a fun and simple activity, experiment, or basic scientific principle, written for kids and kids-at-heart! These will require little to no materials, and are designed to be a fun activity for the classroom or as an at-home activity with the family. We hope you enjoy, and as always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment on a post or email us at email@example.com.
You have probably heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”. And if you are lucky you may be noticing the first signs of spring flowers popping up in your neighborhood, parks and forests. As the spring showers roll in we can begin to enjoy the flowers that thrive on seasonal rains here in the Pacific Northwest. One way to remember and enjoy this season is by pressing and drying some of these flowers using a hand made flower press!
The Materials you will need to make your Flower Press:
- 8 four inch by four inch squares of cardboard
- 10 four inch by four inch squares of paper (maybe there is some in your recycling!)
- 4 rubber bands
- a heavy book
What To Do:
- Cut your cardboard and paper into 4” x 4” squares or ask an adult to cut your cardboard and paper.
- Layer one piece of paper between each piece of cardboard until you have an alternating stack.
- Find the middle layer in your stack of cardboard and paper and add one or two extra pieces of paper. This is the layer you will use to press your flower.
- GO OUTSIDE! Find a flower that it is OK to pick, you may need to check with an adult, and place it in the center section of your press. Make sure your flower is flat and sandwiched between to pieces of paper.
- Re-stack all of your cardboard and paper so that the flower is in the middle and rubber band your stack together, making a lattice or criss-cross pattern with the rubber bands. If the bands are not tight enough, wrap them around your stack another time. The tighter your press the better your flower will turn out.
- Just to make sure, place a large heavy book on top of your flower press and let it sit for one week.
- Once your week is up remove the book and rubber bands and gently remove your flower from your press. Sometimes your flower still needs to dry a bit after pressing, so place it in a sunny window sill and enjoy its beauty.
Things You Can Do With Your Pressed Flowers:
* Glue them to a card
* Make a pressed flower collection
* Identify the parts of flower using the diagram above
* Glue them to the cover of your nature or writing journal
* Give them to a friend or family member
Have fun, continue to go outside and seek natural discoveries!
This will be the first of a bi-weekly event and news post of what’s going on in the Siskiyou Env. Ed. Center (SEEC), locally, regionally, or even nationally. If you’d like to see your event here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
NAI Region 10 Workshop: Take Time to Share the Best Practices in Interpretation!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012. 9 am- 5pm, Pacific Time.
Various locations: Portage, AK; Vancouver, WA; Tacoma, WA; Bonneville Lock, OR.
Student Sustainability Educators Webinar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012. 2-3 pm, Eastern Time
Feast or Famine: Food Stories
Thursday, April 19, 2012. 7 pm, Pacific Time.
Rogue Valley Earth Day: Giving Voice, Taking Action
Saturday, April 21, 2012. 11 am- 4 pm, Pacific Time
ScienceWorks Museum, Ashland, OR.
Saturday, May 5th, 2012. 10am- 4pm, PT.
Central Point, OR.
For more information, or to register, contact: email@example.com, 541-592-0327.
Master Gardener Spring Fair
Saturday/Sunday, May 5-6th, 2012. 9 am- 4 pm, Pacific Time.
Central Point, OR.
Bear Creek Watershed Education Symposium
Thursday, May 17, 2012. 9 am- 2 pm, Pacific Time.
Kids Unlimited, Medford, OR.
Introducing Ted-Ed: Lessons worth sharing
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright ® 1973 by Wendell Berry, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.
Welcome to the blog of the Siskiyou Environmental Education Center (SEEC). We are a graduate group of environmental educators at Southern Oregon University. This blog post is the first of many, and we hope you’ll check back with us once our site is up and running.
In the meantime… keep seecing.