By “nature-based methods” we don’t mean conventional environmental education, although these can hold an educative value in terms of raising awareness regarding our the state of our planet. By nature-based methods we mean a type of outdoor activities that happen in a natural environment and that make active use of nature as a central element of the activity, not just a pleasant frame.
The benefits of using nature as an essential element for non-formal education with youngsters is supported by science. There is wide research confirming that contact with nature improves mental health and enhances a sense of belonging. Positive impact includes stress reduction, a sense of coherence, improved self-confidence and self-discipline, creativity, stress alleviation and a broader sense of community .
Playing and learning together in nature, free from the distractions of today’s stimulation-intensive world allows benefits to occur in relatively short periods of time. Nature is believed to allow a sense of connectedness, meaning and purpose. In a world full of social pressures, standards of conduct, and the demands of others; we argue that nature provides the youth with a great opportunity to appreciate that the world is alive, fascinating and meaningful.
There is a very good argument to back the need to live in nature: we as human being have evolved to be what we are today of years by living very close to nature during thousands. Our bodies, our senses and our mind is perfectly designed to feel at home in nature.
Returning to nature provides the opportunity of questioning the parameters we have learned in our lives. The prevailing paradigm in Western society assumes that human needs are more important than those of any other species. This conception correlates with the anthropocentric model that is causing irreparable damage to the Earth and consequently to ourselves. Significantly, the influential ecologist Aldo Leopold already wrote in 1949: ‘We abuse our planet because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see the planet as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.’
In contrast, nature-based learning proposes an experiential understanding of the natural world as a whole. Nature-based methods proposed in these book work with an ecocentric model in which human beings are part of a complex and wonderful network of life in which everything is connected. The harm to any part of it inevitably affects the entire network.
Nature-based methods are nourished by different interrelated sources: native cultures, deep ecology, systems theory, ecofeminism, etc. They all provide both a theoretical basis and practical activities. Undoubtedly, one of the most important source of the knowledge is preserved and transmitted by the indigenous peoples, especially those from the American continent. Native peoples tend to consider that everything is alive. Each living being has a specific role to play and is deeply interrelated with all other beings. Everything on Earth forms part of the same family: the stones, the trees, the clouds, the animals that swim, fly, crawl or walk, the sun and the moon. Each of the beings encapsulates unique wisdom as a result of its adaptations and relationship with the other beings.