Young children's contributions to sustainability: The influence of nature play on curiosity, executive function skills, creative thinking, and resilience

Julie Ernst, Firdevs Burcak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Environmental education for young children has great potential for fostering the skills, values, and dispositions that support sustainability. While North American guidelines emphasize the importance of using the natural world for open-ended exploration, discovery, and play, this approach has been criticized for lacking the transformative power necessary for meaningfully contributing to sustainability issues. Four pilot studies were conducted exploring the influence of nature play in the context of nature preschools on children's curiosity, executive function skills, creative thinking, and resilience. These studies used established quantitative instruments to measure growth in these constructs among nature preschool participants, comparing this growth with participants in high quality, play-based, non-nature preschools. The results suggest a positive contribution of nature play, with greater levels of curiosity, creative thinking, and resilience than what was observed in the non-nature preschool participants, and executive function skills similar to the non-nature preschool participants and exceeding national norms. Collectively, these pilot studies suggest the potential contribution of nature play in the context of education for sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4212
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume11
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the University of Minnesota and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).

Keywords

  • Creative thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Early childhood environmental education
  • Executive function skills
  • Nature play
  • Nature preschool
  • Resilience

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