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Young children, the outdoors and nature
Young children, the outdoors and nature

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3.3 Relationships matter

Froebel recognised that humans are part of nature and there is a deep interconnection between human health and the health of the natural world. Importantly, he calls us to think about what we can offer as well as what we can receive from the natural environment. In his words, it is not just what one can ‘receive and absorb from without’ but, ‘much more … what he puts out and unfolds from himself’.

This understanding stands in stark contrast with our humancentric contemporary thinking which focuses on human benefits from engaging with nature rather than asking ‘What is my responsibility towards it?’ As Froebelian scholar, Helen Tovey argues, Froebel can help us rethink our relationship with the natural world as she sets out in this extract from the Froebel Trust document ‘An introduction to Froebel, children and nature’ below:

Today, Froebel’s ideas have renewed importance and urgency. Our task is not to give lessons in conservation or overwhelm children with anxiety about the planet. Instead, we need to cultivate a love for nature, wonder at its beauty, respect for its laws, and an emerging understanding of its complex web of interconnections. Educators can empower children to play their part in protecting and nurturing nature, creating rich habitats for wildlife. They can connect with the ‘big ideas’ of sustainability, climate change and biodiversity in direct and meaningful ways. Crucially we can use Froebel’s ideas to rethink our relationship with nature, create ecologically rich learning environments and help a generation of children to grow in harmony with the natural world.

(Tovey, 2022, p. 6)

Did you note the phrase that Froebel’s ideas ‘have renewed importance and urgency’? This is because of the global environmental crisis fuelled by a perspective of the natural world that sees it only as a resource to support human life. Froebel brings a different perspective; he is considered to be a holistic thinker, who emphasises connection and connectivity rather than separation. For this reason, his perspective offers a challenge to current thinking. It is interesting to consider what his thoughts would be if he was alive and writing today. The ideas around respect for the planet will be explored in more depth in Session 7.