Poster Presentation 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

Creating Positive Outdoor Spaces & School-wide Initiatives to Foster Nature Connectedness in Adolescents (#622)

Kirsten Johnston 1 , Carrie Gilfillan 1 , Libby Dalrymple 1
  1. Lakefield College School, Lakefield, ON, Canada

Growing research reveals powerful evidence that nature connectedness promotes enhanced hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing.  Empirical studies refer to a combination of theories to explain why nature is beneficial; Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis, Kaplan & Kaplan’s attention restoration theory and Ulrich’s stress-reduction theory provide impressive support for nature’s beneficial effects on both mental and physical health. Paradoxically, participation in nature-based recreation is declining as young people are spending less time outdoors.

Lakefield College School (LCS) has embarked upon a journey into positive education, infusing programs with positive psychology and an emphasis on physical wellbeing to build mental health and resilience in students.  A recent focus in the school’s strategic plan to get students outdoors every day is an innovative way to embed nature connectedness into positive education practice.

LCS has taken a multi-layered approach to foster nature connectedness in adolescents by making changes to the school’s facilities and its programming. This presentation will outline how LCS is increasing adolescents’ engagement in nature through the creation of a positive psychology-based community garden, student-built wellbeing trails, the incorporation of beekeeping and maple syrup production programs, in addition to partnerships with provincial and national organizations to develop annual school-wide wellbeing initiatives in the outdoors.