HELSINKICould "interventions" bring children closer to nature? Researchers in Finland think so. A new study published in HortTechnology compares urban and rural children's relationships with plants and recommends horticultural interventions, especially for urban children.
In Finland, a country famous for its forests and wilderness, researchers Taina Laaksoharju from the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki and Erja Rappe of The Martha Association teamed up to investigate the role of vegetation in the lives of urban and rural children. "We were interested in finding out if it is true that children are not interested in plants or playing outdoors", they noted.
The study examined the relationships of 9- and 10-year-old Finnish school children to the environment and plants. Using a questionnaire of structured and open-ended questions, the researchers focused on two comparisons: children's relationships with nature in rural and urban neighborhoods, and preferences for plants among boys and girls. 76 children42 in the Helsinki suburb area and 34 in a rural areaparticipated in the study.
Results suggested that children living in rural surroundings had closer contact with nature than their urban counterparts. For example, more rural children considered people to be "part of nature" than did urban children. The researchers noted that, like children in other Western countries, Finnish children may be in danger of losing direct contact with the natural environment. "This suggests that further research is essential to understand children's experiences if we are to enhance the crucial role of the environment in their lives", they wrote.
The children's answers indicated that natural areas are important arenas for children's free play and socializing. "In the suburbs, closer connections to nature are rare; interventions in schools, especially outdoor horticultural ones, can help children to build the
|Contact: Michael W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science