Affective Nature Connection: an Australian case study

Mr David Hayward1, Dr Heidi Smith2, Dr David Moltow3
1St Patrick’s College, Launceston, Australia; 2University of Edunburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; 3University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


21st century Outdoor Education is striving to define its purpose (in at least the Australian curriculum if not many other countries such as Britain, Canada and New Zealand) in a manner of “post hoc rationalization of existing practice” (Nicol, 2014, p. 450). With this human relationships with nature (Martin, 2005) and connections to place (Wattchow & Brown, 2011) has emerged as an increasingly important field of inquiry. The past two decades have seen a growing body of literature (Beams & Brown, 2014; Brooks, 2003a; Brown, 2008; Cuthbertson, Socha & Potter, 2004; Dyment & Potter, 2015; Loynes, 1998; Lugg, 1999, 2004; Nicol, 2014; Wattchow, 2001, 2004) critique ‘traditional’ neo-Hahnian (Brooks, 2003a, 2003b) approaches to outdoor education. In conjunction with this critique is a consistent call for a deeper understanding of the student’s subjective response to field experiences (Lugg, 1999; Nicol, 2014; Martin, 2005; Wattchow, 2001; Wattchow & Brown, 2011).
This presentation will share findings from a research project that explored the student experience of nature connection in the affective domain during an extended wilderness experience. Personal narratives of the researcher’s own experience are shared first, followed by findings from initial teacher educators in terms of how they feel and experience connections to nature. The research synthesises Martin’s (2005) human to nature relationships signposts and the Affective Domain Taxonomy (Krathwohl, Bloom & Masia, 1964) to create a conceptual framework through which to understand and elucidate the emotional experience of nature connection.

David Hayward teachers Outdoor Education at St Patricks College, Launceston. He graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Education (Hons) (Outdoor Education and Design and Technology). He has an interest in increasing his understanding of human nature relationships and how to teach this through researching his own and his student experiences.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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