Schooled In Nature : Investigating Pre-School Children’s Access to Nature in São Paolo Through Their Principals’ and Teachers’ Perspectives
Author(s)Nunes Esposo, Claudia
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AbstractTo promote people's contact with nature is both an environmental and a health issue. Previous studies show that being in natural environments provides mental, physical and emotional health benefits and is significant in the formation of environmental attitudes, which is also known to be important during child development. This study is about the opportunities that children have to experience natural environments within pre-schools in Sao Paulo Municipality (Brazil) considering their pre-school leaders and teachers' perspectives. Through qualitative interviews and text analysis, five kindergartens were studied. One aim has been to get a better understanding of the preschool's official policy on environmental education and a picture of pre-school leaders and preschool teachers' attitudes regarding children's access to nature. The other goal was to investigate the concrete pre-school activities in which children participate, as reported by their pre-school leaders and preschool teachers. The results show that the municipal curriculum recommends interaction with nature through goal-oriented activities, but does not specifically emphasise free play in nature. It has also been shown that pre-school principals and teachers have a positive attitude towards including nature in unstructured as well as structured pre-school activities. However, the degree to which this is reflected in the current activities is strongly dependent on other factors, such as physical,administrative or organizational conditions that exist in each pre-school. These so-called frame factors need to be known and taken into consideration, whether it is the education planners, pre-school leaders or preschool teachers that are trying to implement change. The study also highlights the importance of a work environment that encourages preschool teachers to seek self-development in their professional capacity, which in turn affects the quality of environmental education that is taught.