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Publication Detail
Indigenous children's connectedness to nature: the potential influence of culture, gender and exposure to a contaminated environment
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Reiss M, Sedawi W, Ben Zvi Assaraf O
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Cultural Studies in Science Education
  • Status:
Connectedness to nature is a reflection of the human-nature relationship. Positive experiences and emotional connections to nature in childhood have been shown to increase the likelihood of positive attitudes towards the environment in adults. These, in turn, are an essential part of our ability to meet the challenges of the current environmental crisis. In light of the importance of understanding and fostering the nature connectedness of children, our study sought to investigate this connection among students from an indigenous community, whose relationship with nature is influenced by a variety of cultural, social and environmental factors, not least of which is the fact that the environment in which they live is highly contaminated. We asked 294 fifth and sixth grade students (130 boys and 164 girls) who live in the Bedouin villages in Israel’s Negev desert to complete an open questionnaire that had been specifically developed to elicit detailed information about these particular students’ connection to nature. Our analysis of the students’ responses showed that students living in the Bedouin villages have ambivalent and complicated feelings about their connection to nature. Quantitative analyses showed that the students enjoy nature and spend a great deal of time outdoors, but that their awareness of their environment’s contamination also leads them to avoid contact with natural spaces and fosters the sense that they lack the ability to take responsibility for their environment. A gender comparison showed some significant differences, with girls showing a greater nature enjoyment, empathy towards living creatures and sense of responsibility than boys, while boys mention more direct experiences in nature than girls. Qualitative analysis of the students’ explanations showed that their nature connectedness was affected by a wide range of influences, including cultural and social factors (religious beliefs, traditionally distinctive gender roles, tribal territory and affiliation), and the various facets of their daily experience in a highly rural environment (weather conditions, playing in nature, instrumental views of nature).
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