Education and Public Engagement

Children and Nature in the City

a research project to explore the city through the lens of children

It is now common to speak of children in the city as being vulnerable to a ‘nature-deficit disorder’; a term that has foregrounded social movements that attempt to bring children ‘back to nature’. Children in the city, in this sense, are twice removed from ‘nature’- once by being spatially distant from ‘nature spaces’ and then through the digital worlds that they inhabit even within the cityscape. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has further marked a pronounced shift in how the everyday is experienced- shaping our mobilities and increasing our dependence on digital technologies. For many children, the space of the school has been brought to the home and interactions with outdoor spaces have become sparse. These pronounced shifts in how the everyday is experienced could have lasting implications on the development of children’s affective attitudes towards nature. ‘Nature’, however, is not only consumed through embodied experiences but through varied forms- from cultural artefacts such as toys and posters to nature documentaries. For children enrolled in schools, Environment Studies (or EVS) is another medium which presents an opportunity for children to be introduced to, and learn more deeply about the natures around them. But often, these syllabi too present a nature that is distant from them. Children are often seen to be more acquainted with charismatic species that are ‘far away’ than those closer to home.

A research project designed in collaboration with Azim Premji University, this study looks to understand how different children in the city relate to, connect with, frame and consume ‘nature’. The study will generate baseline information on the nature literacy levels and connections of 10-12 year olds in the city; which will aid us in identifying areas that need addressing as part of our own interventions at Nature Classrooms. We look to employ a range of research methods in our study to present avenues through which participants can articulate and express the relationships that they have with the nonhuman world. Through the study, we also try to attend to the socio-material lives of children by looking at how their mobilities and spaces have been shaped and transformed by the pandemic. We hope to learn more about their lives as situated and on-going; with children framing their own narratives about their lives, neighbourhoods and communities.