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A System to

Connect Children & Nearby Nature


Roberta M. McConochie, LA, Ph.D.

rdmcconochie@comcast.net A Framework System to Connect Children with Nearby Nature; 2010, Morgan State University

Current Challenges:




Urban Places




Thesis Research
Inventory studies: 4 Maryland sites: 3 in Baltimore & one in county. Identify categories of community resource; Identify age-related learning needs; Test conceptual system to connect children with nature on fifth site.
2/11/2011 3

Four Study Sites Differ in

geography/topography, urban form, density, land-use mix.




Anne Arundel



Generic Categories


1. Patch (Forest Patch): Local area of native vegetation, originally part of a larger system. Many patches include exotic and/or invasive plants as well as local natives. 2. Home. Residences of the local community; places where many local schoolchildren, their &/or caregivers reside. 3. SME's (Subject Matter Experts). Persons involved with local institutions, organizations & businesses, who can provide informallearning input (e.g. instruction, example, learning materials) about one or more aspects of local nature. 4. Other places of nature including e.g. greenery, creeks, local soil, stone, wildlife habitats, as well as gardens, trees, etc. "Central" schools' grounds are included in this category. 5. Land Features including topography, resulting flow of water; related and enabled views of nature and natural systems. 6. The central school's building, both exterior and interior, where children spend the large majority of their school days.


Types of Community Resources

1. Forest Patch

Types of Community Resources

2. Home 3. SMEs (Subjectmatter Experts)

Types of Community Resources

4. Natural Places; 5. Land features

Types of Community Resources

6. School Building

Learning Need Typology

Generic Categories

a. Nurturing: Taking respite, sheltering, hiding; in a quiet area and in the context of nature. b. Energizing. Engaging in active running, jumping, walking & other physical activities. c. Ordering. Learning and creating systems of order among objects, places, procedures, behaviors. d. Connecting. Engaging in cooperative endeavors via partnerships, teams, groups, possibly with a mentor. e. Achieving. Taking on individual responsibility, leadership for environmental project, probably with help of a mentor.


Types of Childrens Needs

1. Nurturing 2. Energizing 3. Ordering

4. Connecting

5. Achieving


Examples of Application
Bench-wall planters. Take-home nature kits. Recycling rooftop and other water runoff into e.g. waterfalls, fountains which treat/remove pollutants and store water for irrigation. Community food and flower gardens under mentorship of community residents, leaders. Restoration / clean-up projects, e.g. parks, creeks, lots Bug collection & identification. Wayfinding & mapping.


Bench-Wall Planter


Example: Bench-Wall Planter

FRAMEWORK APPLICATION BENCH-WALL-PLANTER (e.g. at library) a. Nurturing. Planter's bench provides places for kindergarten children to sit & view plants, read labels, nibble on edibles. b. Energizing. First & second graders can help dig, run and fetch, mulch, and carry bags of soil; also, with supervision, help weed and plant. c. Ordering. Third & fourth graders can, with assistance, draw maps of existing plantings, make plant labels; help create and follow rules for use of the planters and the plants; create weeding, watering schedules and help involve younger children. d. Connecting. Fourth and fifth graders can help create groups to serve as work teams; these older children can also serve as mentors and leaders. An adult facilator is required to coach and mentor task-focused teams. e. Achieving. Fifth graders can, with help from mentors, study gardening methods & designs; evaluate them and recommend improvements; chart productivity over more than one season tracking e.g. weather patterns and plant productivity.


Neighborhood / Home Gardens


Example: Take-Home Nature Kits

FRAMEWORK APPLICATION HOME / FAMILY NATURE STORIES, PROJECTS a. Nurturing. For youngest children, a plant, poster, other natural object to contemplate, nurture with the help of significant others. b. Energizing. For first or second graders, take-home activity nature kits, e.g. nature games, scavenger-hunt-type activities for child. c. Ordering. For third and fourth graders, kits for map drawing of home, nearby streets and area features; classification projects, e.g. leaf collection, identification. d. Connecting. Take-home-kit for fourth and fifth graders to ask elders about their childhood nature-related experiences, memories, family legends. e. Achieving. Individual, higher-order home projects for older children, e.g. garden project; pet training; with help of local mentor who is not a family member).


Group Exercise: Planning Children-Nature Connections

1. Individually or with a partner you know: Pick ONE age group & an appropriate age-related need to address:
Nurturing Energizing Ordering Connecting Achieving


Group Exercise: Planning Children-Nature Connections

1. Pick ONE age group.


Focus on one specific resource:

Forest patch Home(s) Subject Matter Expert Other place of nature Land Feature


Group Exercise: Planning Children-Nature Connections

1. 2. Pick ONE age group: identify a developmental need. Pick a resource.

3. Outline your program: congratulations on the grant that covers your budget.


For Example
1. Garden-club tree identification & signage project for 3rd graders to order nature); 2. Climate studies for 5th graders to track e.g. wind, precipitation, sunrise-sunset with local SME from hardware store. 3. Neighborhood stream clean up project with age-appropriate tasks, supervision.


A System for

Connecting Children & Nearby Nature


Roberta M. McConochie, LA, Ph.D.

Based on R. McConochie Masters Thesis, A Framework System to Connect Children with Nearby Nature; 2010, Morgan State University