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   Location:Home > News > News Updates
School gardens cultivate children's interest in nature, ease stress
ArticleSource: Xinhua
Update time: 2024-02-21
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KUNMING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- It is widely known that children's interest in nature is crucial for their mental health and biodiversity conservation efforts. But how to foster children's interest in nature in the first place? The answer may lie in a garden.

Chinese researchers have recently revealed that a school garden with abundant natural components can be used to cultivate the interest of primary school children in nature while helping to alleviate their study-related stress.

In a study published in the journal People and Nature, a research team from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed the impact of natural observation and inquiry-based learning activities in a school garden on the development of children's interest in nature.

The researchers conducted a series of teaching interventions over a semester in a campus garden of a primary school in Xishuangbanna in southwest China's Yunnan Province. The program involved 24 fourth-grade students taking part in weekly 40-minute activities, which were divided into three treatments: natural observation with assigned tasks, natural observation with open-ended tasks and inquiry-based activities.

Participants maintained individual portfolios consisting of questionnaires, nature journals, observation descriptions and interviews. Qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed to categorize children into three types: those with initiated interest, those with enhanced interest, and those with no significant change.

After four months into the program, the results showed that more than two-thirds of the 24 students were classified as either "interest initiated" or "interest enhanced," indicating a generally favorable outcome, according to the study.

Qualitative data analysis also revealed that novelty, scaffolding, autonomy and social interaction were pivotal factors in fostering interest development among most children.

The results revealed that the school garden, with its unique and safe environment, played a significant role in stimulating children's curiosity about the creatures in the garden. It also provided a novel and safe environment that empowered children to learn and explore independently.

Meanwhile, teacher scaffolding further supported their curiosity toward the garden's organisms, potentially leading to the development of their individual interests in nature, according to the study.

Given the current trend of children spending more time with screens and less in nature, school gardens offer potential solutions, the study said.

"Implementing a diverse school garden with informative labels and explanation boards, along with teacher support, represents a promising approach to cultivating children's interest in nature, particularly during the critical developmental stage of nine to 11 years of age," said Chen Jin, a researcher at the XTBG.

"We recommend implementing mini botanical gardens and club activities in schools to bridge formal and informal education," Chen added.

 A primary school students is observing plants in her school garden. (Image by YE Yingliang)

URL: https://english.news.cn/20240221/55a2425d473444adb7633d7739cea433/c.html 

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Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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