There is growing concern for both the decline of direct experience people have with nature, and the quality of that experience. This diminished experience has negative consequences for public awareness and concern for biodiversity and ecosystem health (Miller, 2005). At the same time, a diminished experience of nature appears to have a substantial negative impact on child development (Kahn & Friedman, 1995; Kahn, 2002; Matteo, Barthel, & Lars, 2014; Pyle, 1993; Thomashow, 2002). These concerns are heightened in the urban context where increased urbanization shows a relationship with a reduction in biodiversity and ecosystem health (MA, 2005; Sala et al., 2000). Additional concern comes from studies showing decreasing ecological knowledge among growing urban populations (McDaniel & Alley, 2005; McKinney, 2002). In an attempt to address these concerns and contribute toward a better understanding of the importance of childhood experience of nature, this study investigates one specific example, collecting in nature. Studies show that childhood collecting in nature (the gathering of rocks, shells, feathers, etc. as part of play and free exploration) is a widespread phenomenon (Lekies & Beery, 2013), and yet, very little is understood about this behavior. This study explored the details of childhood collecting in nature with an emphasis on the places of this experience. Participants consisted of a random sample of undergraduate students at a Swedish university (N = 380) participating in a survey focused upon early life outdoor experiences. Responses included multiple choice and Likert scale items, along with data from open-ended questions. In addition, participants were invited to discuss their experience of childhood collecting in greater detail via a semi-structured interview. Fourteen interviews were conducted as follow-up to the survey. Data review considered descriptive statistics, correlations, and regression analysis triangulated with the qualitative data from the open-ended responses and interviews. Results highlight the importance of specific places in the childhood experience of nature, the importance of nearby nature, and further, provide preliminary support for a model for environmental concern (Wolf-Watz, 2015). Ultimately, the study illuminates the idea of childhood development as a cultural ecosystem service and provides implications for nature-based solutions, such as green infrastructure, to support childhood nature experience.
International Association for People Environment Studies, June 2016, Lund, Sweden