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This Week in Research: ​School of the Environment and Day care Research

Impacting and promoting children’s health and understanding of nature through environmental engagement

This Week in Research

Impacting and promoting children’s health and understanding of nature through environmental engagement

This research project titled, “Promoting children’s health and understanding of nature through environmental engagement”, is a very new collaboration involving Laurentian researchers, Dr. Nicole Yantzi and Dr.Yovita Gwekwerere (School of the Environment and School of Education/ Environment) and the Laurentian Child and Family Centre (LCFC). Dr. Yantzi’s research emphasizes the interactions between children’s health (physical, social and emotional) and their daily environments (homes, schools/ playgrounds and neighbourhoods). Her work is premised on the fact that although the environment impacts children, that children also exercise agency in their environments. Dr. Gwekwerere’s research focuses on Environmental Sustainability Education (ESE) both in the formal and non-formal education settings. She is currently working in collaboration with researchers in Southern Africa to strengthen capacities of primary and secondary teachers to integrate ESE in the curriculum.

 

The researchers have been looking for a research project to collaborate on, and the request for new environmental learning activities from the LCFC presented the perfect opportunity to initiate this partnership. Earlier this year, the director of the LCFC contacted the School of the Environment (SOTE) to seek help in improving the level of environmental engagement at the childcare centre and in May the researchers met with the director to plan activities for the children. It is exciting that LCFC identified the need to strengthen their level of environmental engagement and took the onus to contact the SOTE. This collaboration will provide many research and practicum opportunities in the area of children’s environmental curiosity and engagement for SOTE and Education Faculty and students. It is hoped that the collaboration will be mutually beneficial. The researchers will have access to children from a wide variety of ages and the location of LCFC provides an ideal setting to develop, test and refine activities to strengthen children’s environmental understanding. This is crucial as existing research points to a critical link between children’s engagement with the natural environment and their degree of environmental stewardship later in life. This research supports and extends the direction of the Evaluating Children’s Health Outcomes (ECHO) Research Centre. The researchers will provide all developed activities to the LCFC for ongoing future use.

 

The project promotes the new early childhood learning through play curriculum that requires the natural environment to be part of the inquiry process in order to nurture children’s natural curiosity. The goal for this collaboration is for the children to have a better knowledge and respect for their environment. Our first activity is a gardening project and the children have already weeded their LU garden plot and look forward to planting, tending and harvesting the produce which can then be used in their kitchen. During environmental engagement activities, various methods will be used to observe the children and record their dialogue in order to examine their language and thinking about the environment.

If you would like further information about this project, please contact Dr. Nicole Yantzi (nyantzi@laurentian.ca) (ext. 3355) or Dr. Yovita Gwekwerere (ygwekwerere@laurentian.ca) (ext.3215)