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Natural balance needed in childhood nature deficit

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A Curtin University academic will present a talk on Nature Deficit, Forests and Education at the upcoming inaugural Margaret River Flourish Symposium, from 7-9 October.

Curtin School of Education lecturer, Sonja Kuzich, said the Symposium would provide a unique opportunity to discuss the lack of connection with nature evident in the lifestyles of today’s children.

“Loving, living and learning through nature are an essential part of childhood and it is surprising to learn how many of today’s children have little opportunity or inclination to be outdoors,” Ms Kuzich said.

“A recent Australian longitudinal study, Growing up in Australia, showed that between 2004 and 2008, six to nine year olds spent just under two hours a day outdoors on the weekend, with the rest of their time spent on sedentary indoor activities.

“Even more surprising is that in just over one generation of Australians, outdoor play has reduced from 73 per cent to 13 per cent.”

Ms Kuzich said the impact of children’s disconnection with nature was manifold and evidenced through the decline in wellbeing and cognitive and physical health reported in a number of research findings.

“A great deal of evidence shows that early exposure of children to free, unstructured play in nature before the age of 12 develops a lifelong fascination, care and respect for the environment,” she said.

“Immersion in natural landscapes, such as forested areas, also promotes a sense of awe, wonder and an appreciation of the ‘magic’ of nature in children.

“With the proliferation of artfully landscaped and manicured suburban housing developments, ‘litigation proof’ council playgrounds and school grounds, coupled with the parental fear factor, there is little space left for children to enjoy access to the natural environment,” she said.

Ms Kuzich said in his book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv identified similar patterns among American children.

“Louv coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ to describe the loss of this innate emotional affiliation we as humans have with nature, which has been built into us over millions of years of evolution to assist our survival.

“At a time when concerns about the state of the globe, environmental destruction, climate change and precarious political, social and economic conditions are paramount, there is an irony that children are being increasingly divorced from the very elements that may be the key to our future survival.”

Ms Kuzich said there was a strong need for environmental education in Australia to address the lack of awareness and care concerning forests.

“Education challenges conformity and contributes to appreciation and respect. Regaining a sense of awe and respect for forests through education can assist society to gain that much needed ‘natural balance’.”

Sonja Kuzich is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy, with experience from early childhood through to primary and tertiary teaching. As well as teaching and curriculum development work, she has been involved in in-service teacher education in the areas of literacy, numeracy, science and learning difficulties. Ms Kuzich developed the Western Australian Professional Standards for Teaching, which provides the code of ethics and professional learning guidelines for teachers in Western Australia.

CIBC researchers will attend the upcoming Flourish Symposium in Margaret River, on 7 October 2011, as well as a number of associated Flourish activities over the weekend of 8 and 9 October, to outline research activity in the safeguarding and management of safe havens for biodiversity in South-West Australia.

Flourish will host a symposium, exhibitors, entertainers, displays, educational activities, workshops, topical speaker sessions, interactive demonstrations, children’s activities, an exclusive Under the Stars dinner and much more.

Ms Kuzich will present her talk, Nature deficit, forests and education, on Friday 7 October. For program details and further information, please visit:


Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Mob: 0401 103 755, Email:

Sonja Kuzich, School of Education, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 2175, Email:  


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