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Open AccessArticle

Young Children’s Contributions to Sustainability: The Influence of Nature Play on Curiosity, Executive Function Skills, Creative Thinking, and Resilience

1
Applied Human Sciences, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN 55812, USA
2
Hasan Ali Yucel Faculty of Education, Department of Early Childhood Education, Istanbul University - Cerrahpasa, 34500 Istanbul, Turkey
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4212; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154212
Received: 10 June 2019 / Revised: 26 July 2019 / Accepted: 1 August 2019 / Published: 4 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Education for Sustainability)
Environmental education for young children has great potential for fostering the skills, values, and dispositions that support sustainability. While North American guidelines emphasize the importance of using the natural world for open-ended exploration, discovery, and play, this approach has been criticized for lacking the transformative power necessary for meaningfully contributing to sustainability issues. Four pilot studies were conducted exploring the influence of nature play in the context of nature preschools on children’s curiosity, executive function skills, creative thinking, and resilience. These studies used established quantitative instruments to measure growth in these constructs among nature preschool participants, comparing this growth with participants in high quality, play-based, non-nature preschools. The results suggest a positive contribution of nature play, with greater levels of curiosity, creative thinking, and resilience than what was observed in the non-nature preschool participants, and executive function skills similar to the non-nature preschool participants and exceeding national norms. Collectively, these pilot studies suggest the potential contribution of nature play in the context of education for sustainability. View Full-Text
Keywords: early childhood environmental education; nature play; nature preschool; curiosity; creative thinking; executive function skills; resilience early childhood environmental education; nature play; nature preschool; curiosity; creative thinking; executive function skills; resilience
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Ernst, J.; Burcak, F. Young Children’s Contributions to Sustainability: The Influence of Nature Play on Curiosity, Executive Function Skills, Creative Thinking, and Resilience. Sustainability 2019, 11, 4212.

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