New research from Cornell University finds that kids who had 'wild' interactions with nature before their teen years developed a stronger environmental awareness than those engaged in more controlled play in the great outdoors.
An explanation by Nancy Wells, environmental psychologist with Cornell's College of Human Ecology:
'Our study indicates that participating in wild nature activities before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood ... Participating in nature-related activities that are mandatory evidently do not have the same effects as free play in nature, which don't have demands or distractions posed by others and may be particularly critical in influencing long-term environmentalism.'
The research by Wells and Kristi Lekies, a research associate at Cornell, examined data from a 1998 U.S. Department of Ag Forest Service survey. The survey quizzed more than 2,000 urban-residing adults about 'their early childhood nature experiences and their current adult attitudes and behaviors relating to the environment,' according to a press release from the university.
It appears that the scouts and enviro ed programs didn't cut it for producing true-blue greenies; no word on whether elementary school snipe hunts were formative or not."