The issue of children’s accessibility to natural environments has always been a primary concern of CERG (for example, please see Wildlands for Children). We believe that children’s play in natural settings offer the most diverse and rewarding affordances for young children’s growth and development (link to Eleanor’s past work). Furthermore, there is a theoretical basis and some research to support our belief that children’s free contact with nature through play has important consequences for how children in the early years develop an affection for the natural world. Such affection is in our minds an important route to fostering a caring orientation to nature, another priority of research in CERG. CERG members also have a concern with how a caring relationship to nature emerges in older children and youth and have begun to conduct research on this, including participatory action research with youth in a community-based gardening program and life history research with young environmental activists.
CERG has consulted on numerous educational, recreation and design projects using our understanding of how children explore and experience natural settings and how they think thinking about caring for the natural world. This has included the design of children’s gardens in botanic gardens and zoos, the development of children’s radio programs for public schools, children’s museum exhibits and educational programs for children’s gardens and zoos.