Why Children Need Nature

Stephen R. Kellert, New Haven, CT

ABSTRACT: Connection with nature is necessary for our health, productivity, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, emphasized Stephen Kellert, Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology at Yale University. Growing up in an information rich environment develops our sensory systems, cultivates intellectual capacity, and facilitates problem solving, We know from experience and scientific data that nature helps deal with stress, anxiety, and recovery from physical illness. Concentration and memory, problem solving, creativity, and imagination are facilitated by direct contact with nature that is alive, and by patterns and forms that mimic nature. One of most basic ingredients of our humanity is the appreciation of the sacredness of all life, and this can be awakened through our experience of nature.

Our affiliation with natural systems has been impoverished by the way we have created the modern built environment. “This is a design flaw” emphasized Kellert “and we can design ourselves out of it.” We need a new environmental design paradigm that minimizes adverse effects and fosters a positive affiliation to natural systems. He identified the attributes that provide healing experience and attachment to place, and illustrated how these are expressed in architecture and urban design. “We are a part of nature” Kellert reminded the conference. “If we become oblivious of our connection we lose our humanity.”

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