Archive for ‘Psychology’

July 16, 2014

Encouraging Empathy Over Achievement

by Melissa Harding


“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

What are our hopes for our children? To be successful, to be happy, to be self-sufficient – those seem fairly obvious. How about wanting our kids to be kind? While we may say that we value kindness and caring, that being a good person is better than anything else, our kids are perceiving that we really want something different. The Making Caring Common Project from the Harvard School of Graduate Education has recently released a study called The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values that takes a closer look at just what our kids are hearing from both our words and our actions. The results are more dismaying than they are surprising. When asked to rank what was most important to them, 80% of the youth in the study chose happiness or achievement as their top choice, with roughly 20% choosing caring for others. While hard work and living an overall happy life are important things, it is unfortunate that they are overshadowing the importance of kindness.

Looked at objectively, empathy and kindness are the kinds of pro-social behaviors that lead to civic engagement; it is important to society as a whole that citizens work selflessly at times for the common good, whether it is for their neighborhood, church or wider community. We don’t appear to be creating the kind of people who will donate blood, organize parades and food drives, serve on church vestries, care for aging parents, or run for public office. These same kinds of people also value civil public discourse and harmony within a tolerant community. We are not preparing our children to create this kind of society in the future. Clearly, there is a gap between what we say we value and what we actually do. While we may give lip service to the importance of sharing and caring, our kids are not buying it. About 80% of the youth in the study say that their parents are more concerned with achievement and happiness than caring for others, which makes it unsurprising that they value those two highest themselves. Parents appear to be giving more power and frequency to those messages than to messages of kindness.


Interestingly, or perhaps ironically, here is the real truth: people who focus on caring for others are happier and more successful than their peers. The messages that we send about prioritizing those aspects neither increase happiness nor achievement in children. It turns out that positive relationships and pro-social behavior are strong indicators of future success. Empathy is not only an essential social skill, but an academic one; research shows that successful learners are not only knowledgeable, but also empathetic. Successful students not only exceed in the classroom, but in the community. People like others who are kind and nice to them; this helps with networking, achievement in the workplace and overall personal satisfaction. In contrast, people who are self-interested are less likely to do what is right and are also less likely to have developed the social skills key to being a good parent, friend, spouse, and employee. As these relationships are often our highest sources of happiness, this does not bode well for their overall well-being.

Fortunately, there is some good news in all of this. While most youth ranked caring and fairness as the least of the three presented values, they still think that it is important to some degree. While not ranking kindness first, many youth did rank it highly. Many also expressed that they would be willing to tutor a friend or help out at school on a Saturday – as many as 38%. The roots of empathy are there, just in need of some development. Luckily, developing empathy and kindness in anyone, whether a child or an adult, takes nothing more than practice. The key for parents and educators is to walk the walk rather than just talk; we need to stop saying one thing and doing another. While changing the cultural norm is not easy, be assured that it happens over the course of society all the time. It’s only in the last several decades that the sense of the self became more significant than community practice and it can surely change back again.

Here are a few ways to encourage empathy and kindness at home:
1. Nurture others: Learning to be caring is like learning a musical instrument – it takes practice, practice, practice. Create ongoing opportunities for your child to help out; examples include chores around the house, community and church projects or helping a an elderly neighbor.
2. Be a good example: Model the behavior that you would like them to have.
3. Help children to recognize their own feelings: Helping your child to learn what they are feeling and express it will allow them to better communicate their feelings with others; this will reduce destructive behavior and your child an outlet for negative emotions.
4. Take care of living things: Giving a child the opportunity to nurture a pet or a garden will help develop empathy.
5. Perform random acts of kindness: Performing acts of kindness as a family is a great way to build connections with the community and among yourselves.
6. Spend time in nature: As children learn to treat the world around them with respect and care, so they will also treat each other.

At some point, we will need to address the messages that society sends all of our children head on. Until then, we can change the priorities in our homes and schools and try to reclaim the ethical imperative of a civically engaged society.

Check out these links to learn more:
Learn more at the Making Caring Common Project
Check out this blog post to learn more about kindness and nature.
Read this excellent article by Jessica Lahey about the issues raised in this study.


The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.


July 8, 2014

The Power of Daydreaming

by Melissa Harding


Were you that student who was forever staring out the window instead of paying attention during class? Or maybe you’re the kind of person who gets lost in their thoughts waiting in line at the grocery store. While such mind wandering can seem lazy from the outside, spacing out is actually a really good thing. That can sound counter-intuitive, especially in a culture where achievement and work-ethic are so highly valued. How can daydreaming be good for us when it keeps us from getting our work done? It turns out that while there can be negatives associated with daydreaming, from reduced task-related processing to effects on mood and sustained attention, there are many more benefits than costs for the mind. Daydreaming has been shown to be key to a satisfying mental life and can even help the brain to function better. This can be especially powerful in children, who are constantly developing their brains and learning new skills.

Of course, not all daydreaming is created equal. The mind has a variety of motivations for wandering. Positive constructive daydreaming is characterized by wishful thinking and planful thought. Guilty-dysphoric daydreaming is full of obsessive, anguished thought. Poor attentional control is characterized by an inability to stay on task. Every person’s brain engages in all three kinds of daydreaming, from those that are pleasant to those that are frustrating. Mind wandering is a universal human experience, affecting each of us countless times a day. No matter what shape or form your daydreaming takes, up to 47% of your waking hours are consumed with it.

It’s this large percentage of time that often baffles researchers, as it doesn’t seem to be particularly adaptive when taken at face value. However, some scientists are taking a deeper look at why our minds are so eager to wander and their findings are showing how critical it may be. One prominent researcher in the field of daydreaming is Jermone L. Singer, who has been studying in the field for over 60 years and whose work has been inspiring countless brain scientists for decades. His work features mainly positive constructive daydreaming, the central theme of which is that this kind of daydreaming is positive, even adaptive, and has an important role in our lives. His research over the years has found that mind wandering can reinforce social skills, stave off boredom, provide opportunities for constructive planning, and generally be pleasurable. Taking breaks from external tasks and cycling attention through a variety of daydreams actually enhances learning in the long run and makes the brain more productive overall. There are also links between positive daydreaming and increases in delayed gratification and waiting behavior, especially in young children. The list goes on and on, from increases in socio-emotional skills to better goal setting.

In this light, it seems as if allowing children time to daydream and think is important. Being a child has become increasingly stressful, from ever-present standardized testing to the changing social landscape created by technology. This kind of mental “downtime” has been shown to reduce anxiety, which is linked with overall well-being. Given inadequate time to be in their own heads, children can actually experience decreases in their socio-emotional well-being and ability to complete tasks. Both our educational and parenting practices should seek to better promote balance between children’s needs for external engagement and internal reflection. Practically, this means that we need to stop snapping our kids out of their daydreams. It also means that we need to teach our children to just be, that not every moment needs to be an endless parade of achievement and entertainment. Given how often children rely on external stimulation and adults to amuse them, this is no easy task. However, it can be helpful for both your child and for you to take a little mental break.

Here are some ways to increase daydreaming in your child (and yourself):
1. Limit screen time: Excess screen time is thought to inhibit daydreaming. The constant stimulation is not good for any brain, big or small, and thinking seriously about how much screen time you allow your child and yourself is a good thing.
2. Go outside and play: Being outside frees your child from screens and from you, giving them plenty of time to play both together and alone. Lying back in the grass or staring at bugs is a great time to allow the mind to wander and your child’s imagination to kick into high gear.
3. Model good daydreaming behavior: Being a role model is always important for instilling good habits, from brushing your teeth to being kind.  After all, it’s not hard to notice when someone is daydreaming. The more you do it yourself, the better. If you stay away from your phone and spend some time zoned out, whether it’s doing chores or just sitting and staring, your kids will take note. Even more, you will feel the benefits yourself.
4. Encourage taking “meta-moments” throughout the day: Teach your child to take a moment for themselves whenever they need it. Whether it is in class or on the bus, taking a moment to space out when things get stressful is a great way to reduce anxiety. This is a skill that everyone can benefit from, even adults at work. While it may reduce your effectiveness for a moment, it will increase it in the long run.

Daydreaming is good for everyone. After all, your brain is going to do it whether you like it or not, so try to give yourself moments to enjoy positive, constructive daydreaming. If you find yourself falling too deeply into negative mind wanderings, shake your mind out and take some time to have pleasurable thoughts. Your brain will thank you!

 To read more about the research being done on mind wandering, check out these great sources:
Rest is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education
Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming
Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom
Teach Kids to Daydream

To learn how mindfulness can also help kids reduce stress, check out this blog post.

 The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.



March 25, 2014

Kids and Cats: How Caring for Pets Can Increase Our Environmental Stewardship

by Melissa Harding


“Until one has loved an animal,  a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

Many of us have pets at home; whether it is a cat, dog, gerbil or fish, these critters play an important role in our lives. In fact, about two-thirds of American homes have at least one pet.  We often think of our pets as our companions. We dote on them, play with them, and try to get them to behave. While we know that our pets can make us smile, they are also giving us many unseen benefits. They are a good source of social and emotional support, increasing overall well-being. Research shows that pet owners fare better than non-pet owners in the areas of self-esteem and physical fitness. They are also found to be less lonely, less fearful, more extroverted and more conscientious than non-pet owners. In children, the effects are even greater; caring for a pet teaches empathy, kindness, and responsibility. However, there is one more benefit pets can give us that has only recently begun to be studied: greater connection to nature. Caring for pets has been shown to increase our ability to care for nature in general and to increase our feelings to connectedness to the natural world. After all, we only care about (and for) the things we love.

When we talk about nature, we don’t often think of the animal companions that we interact with every day. However, human interaction with domesticated animals goes back many generations. The earliest known domesticated animal was not a cow or a pig, but a dog. We have been domesticating animals for companionship longer than for food, that much is clear. Maybe that’s because humans naturally want to connect with animals. E.O. Wilson hypothesized this connection to animals in his theory of biophilia, which says that humans are innately drawn to the natural world. By seeking relationships with animals, especially with pets, we are able to connect with nature. It has been suggested that owning a pet symbolizes a unity with nature and acts to satisfy part of this human need for a connection to the natural world. Humans love being with animals, both wild and domesticated. After all, we are all part of nature, our pets included.

There is also research showing that attachment to animals correlates with a positive orientation towards the environment and vice versa. In other words, it seems that your love for your pet makes you more likely to feel connected to nature and that if you feel connected to nature, you are more likely to feel a bond with animals. So how does connecting to nature through our pets get us to be better environmental stewards? To answer this, we need to get into some environmental psychology. There are three psychological components to a person’s connection with nature: a sense of connection, a caring response and commitment to action. In a scenario in which there is a connection to the natural world, that connection leads to caring for nature and then to taking actions on its behalf; in a scenario in which a connection to nature is absent, that lack leads to caring for oneself and then taking actions to protect oneself above all else. If we are feeling more connected to nature through our pets, then we will be more likely to take actions that protect the natural world that we care so much about.

IMG_1402However, you probably don’t need a psychologist to tell you what you can already observe in your children and yourself; there is ample research showing that children learn nurturing skills by bonding with and caring for pets. Many naturalist educators, including David Sobel, advocate for cultivating children’s relationships with animals from a very young age as a way of increasing their empathy for nature. The bond that forms between children and animals has been shown to increase social competence and sense of well-being. As a child cares for and nurtures an animal, he or she develops a sense of empathy, which in turn promotes pro-social behaviors towards other people and the natural world. This is not only a predictor of a successful adult, but also a predictor of a future naturalist.  Its clear that the attitude of stewardship taught through walking a dog carries through into the rest of life.

A Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The dog was created especially for children. He is the God of frolic.” Dogs and other pets are great companions for children and wild animals can be excellent examples as well. Here are some ways that you can use help your child bond with the natural world through animals:

1.  Give responsibility: The best way to promote caring for animals is to actually care for them. Give your child responsibility towards the pets in your home, making sure that the assigned tasks are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age level and abilities. Support your child in this work, helping them to remember that they take care of their pets not because it is a chore, but because their pet needs them. Encourage your child’s teacher to consider a classroom pet; check out this website for convincing reasons why.
2. Go for a walk: Beyond pets, also search for wild animals on your walks. Children always enjoy seeing animals in their journeys; point out birds, squirrels, and other pets. It doesn’t matter if they are common, children will be excited to spot them.
3. Go to the zoo or aquarium: Seeing wild animals is very exciting for children of all ages (adults as well).  Many zoos have programs that allow visitors to help feed and care for the animals, as well as petting areas for children. Point out staff taking care of the animals you see.
3. Look for examples: Animals play a central role in many children’s books and media (up 90% of counting and language-learning books); this can be a great way to expose children to animals from other parts of the world or situations they are unlikely to experience themselves. Use the examples of human/animal interaction to talk with your child about proper behavior towards animals. Ask your child to view the situation from the animal’s perspective. Also have a discussion about the animal’s role in the world, whether it is in a neighborhood, a home, or a wild habitat.
4. Recognize undesirable behavior: Mistreatment of animals can be a warning sign of developing aggressive behavior. Deliberately harmful or frightening actions towards animals should be discouraged. While very young children are often not developmentally able to understand proper behavior towards animals, older children may need parental intervention if negative behavior persists. The Human Society has a helpful guide in dealing with negative behavior towards animals.

To learn more about how interaction with the natural world can increase empathy in children, check out this post.

The above photos were taken by Jeff Harding.



March 4, 2014

Engaging Parents in Science and Nature Education

by Melissa Harding


While we talk quite a bit in this space about engaging children in nature, there is one audience that we often forget: parents. This is especially true in informal education settings; adults are often lost to the tasks of caregiving and disengage from programs, even during ones in which they are specifically there to play a part. Creating programming that appeals to both children and their caretakers is a difficult task, but is an important one. Giving adults opportunities to engage in meaningful interactions with their children in nature not only helps children to create lasting memories that will foster a love of the natural world, but allows parents to connect with both nature and their child in a way that can be life-changing for them as well. Families with small children are increasing the time they spend in informal learning institutions and research suggests that adult interactions with children in these spaces positively impacts the experience. This means that there is a real need to better understand effective ways to engage the whole family together. At Phipps, we focus on two different ways of engaging adults; we give them experiences that help them to learn more about their child and how their child learns, and we give them the tools to support their child’s learning both at Phipps and at home.

This first approach is through our partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. We are working with researchers from CMU’s Cognitive Development Lab. They do this by playing games with their subjects that are designed to take show researchers how children think and how their thinking changes with development. While they watch their child participate, caregivers are given information on the study itself to help them understand more about the research question being investigated. This is a wonderful way for parents and children to engage with the research and, as the research questions often change quickly, there are many eager return customers.

Studies on the effectiveness of this approach have found that watching children participate in research studies increases adult awareness of child development as a science and that one-on-one conversations between adults and scientists increase adult understanding of the scientific process and their overall scientific literacy. Additionally, participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like, and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.  It also can ignite the spark of lifelong science learning, one of the goals of effective science communication.

IMG_0213Another way that we engage parents is through family programming. Allowing adults to participate in our early childhood programs is a way that we can help to create connections to nature that they will carry back home. Our educators try to facilitate an interaction between family members, not dictate a classroom-type experience. We help parents to see the best ways to interact with their child outdoors; this includes teaching them a variety of fun observation exercises that young children enjoy, encouraging sensory experiences with plants and animals, and teaching respect for nature and appropriate boundaries. Our programs are not times for parents to check out and let our educators run the show, but really a time in which parents can get into the dirt with their kids and have fun. Often, parents learn just as many new things as their children and have been known to ask just as many good questions.

While we offer a number of adult education classes at Phipps, many young parents do not have the time to take them. By offering family programming, we are able to reach a very busy group of people and give them the tools to have meaningful outdoor experiences with their children. Research shows that spending time outdoors with a trusted adult creates an experience that children will remember long into adulthood; many naturalists cite these types of experiences as being influential in their lives and in their love of nature. We want to foster more of these experiences for all of our students and parents alike, hoping that together we can create a group of excited naturalists and scientists.

Looking for easy observation tools to incorporate into your programs or family time? Check out this post! Or check out our Backyard Connections series for ideas to connect with nature outdoors.

To learn more about increasing scientific literacy through museum research, check out this post!

The above photos were taken by Cory Doman.

January 14, 2014

Cultivating Attitudes of Gratitude: Teaching Thankfulness Through Nature

by Melissa Harding


How often do you stop and count your blessings? Gratitude may seem to be all the rage right now, with bloggers and magazines talking about the importance of  having an attitude of gratitude, but there is some real research supporting this trend. Studies have shown that people who cultivate gratefulness are happier, more optimistic, more energetic and nicer than those who don’t. Not only that, but they are physically healthier as well. In fact, gratitude is even becoming commonly used as a tool in therapeutic interventions; it can function as a kind of “social support”, which is what psychologists call the perception that people have of being care about and for by others. Many believe that cultivating attitudes of gratitude can help people to build the psychological capital which is beneficial in difficult situations, such as the death of a loved one or a job loss. In short, being grateful is pretty great!

So what is gratitude? Robert Emmons, perhaps one of the foremost experts on gratitude research, has this definition of gratitude: “[Gratitude is] an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” There is also a social dimension to gratitude, which is that it is a relationship-strengthening emotion, because it requires acknowledging the social support in our lives.

Research has found this to be a positive attitude in children as well as adults. It seems that materialist youth tend to do poorly, while youth that demonstrate pro-social behavior, such as gratitude, flourish. In fact, this same study found that higher levels of gratitude can uniquely predict outcomes like higher grade-point average, life satisfaction, and social integration, as well as lower levels of depression and envy. In contrast, higher levels of materialism predict the opposite outcomes. Research shows that as children internalize materialistic values, their well-being and self-worth actually decreases. Mental health also decreases, since many of their perceived needs are not met. Gratitude, however, seems to have an opposite effect, in part because it helps people fulfill their basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

DSC_1465Children who cultivate grateful attitudes are more successful, exhibit more pro-social behaviors, and generally have higher overall well-being. Additionally, grateful children develop intrinsic goals, such as helping the community and connecting with others, rather materialist goals, like fame and wealth. This may seem like common sense, and to an extent it really is. We all like to be around people who are kind and positive and we like to help those people to achieve success. On the other hand, materialism erodes friendships and creates attitudes of envy; those people experience less success for the same reasons that their grateful peers succeed. Having grateful attitudes set children up for success as adults in the same way that being kind and empathetic does.

However, this is much easier said than done. We live in a culture that values materialism as a measure of success and this can be difficult to avoid for adults, let alone children. As they develop, children naturally internalize attitudes and values from society and those societal concerns have a real effect on their worldview. One sure way to increase gratitude in both your child and yourself is to go outside. Being outside has a host of benefits outside of increasing gratitude and interacting in a sensory way with nature is shown to increase appreciation for both the natural world and for life itself. Explore your backyard or local green space and observe the trees, flowers, dirt, and critters that live there. Use magnifying glasses to observe bugs and snowflakes, dig your hands in the dirt, and smell the roses (literally). If you’re feeling brave, maybe taste a dandelion or some clean snow. The more time you spend outside with your child, the more they will love and appreciate the natural world. For some ideas to help you make the most of your time outside, check out this post.

Nature is not the only way to cultivate gratitude; here are some other ways to help your child develop a grateful heart:

1. Keep a gratitude journal: Recording 3-5 things per day that you are grateful for is shown to increase gratitude. This can be done as a family on a communal board, during dinner as part of conversation, or in an actual journal (virtual or otherwise). A great start is to ask your child to share “three good things” that happened to him or her that day. Remember to share your own list as well, making it a family activity rather than a daily quiz for your child. You are a great role model for gratitude and your own attitude will go a long way in influencing your child.
2. Write a gratitude letter: This is not just a thank-you note for a birthday gift, but a real, heart-felt expression of gratitude for someone else. Help your child write a short note of gratitude to a family member, friend, or teacher; adding pictures or a small, homemade present is even better. It can be anything, a homemade card or just a note, but the goal is to get your child to articulate how others help him and to give him the experience of thanking those people with sincerity.
3. Practice mindfully receiving gifts: Help your child to consider that someone mindfully intended to give him a gift or help him, even at a small cost to themselves. Research shows that this in particular is a helpful practice.
4. Say grace: Whether or not your family subscribes to a particular religion, recognizing the work that went into a meal is a good thing. This can take a more traditional or religious tone if desired. If not, say a small blessing on the farmers who grew the food and those hands that prepared it.
5. Help others: Volunteer as a family to help those less fortunate. Whether it is a shift at the soup kitchen or donating toys to charity, helping other helps us appreciate our own blessings even more.

To learn more about the ever-growing science of gratitude, check out this article by The Greater Good or this one on the benefits of appreciation. Or read the full article cited above.

To learn about the benefits of nature on pro-social behavior, check out this blog post.

The above photos are taken by Christie Lawry and Kate Borger.

January 6, 2014

David Sobel, the Father of Place-based Education, is Coming to Phipps!

by Melissa Harding

“What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds.”
– David Sobel, Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education

You may not know the name David Sobel, but you are probably familiar with his work. The author of Place-Based Education and Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education, among other notable works, Sobel writes about the importance of outdoor learning, developmentally-appropriate environmental curriculum and place-based education. Long before Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods and coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder”, David Sobel was writing and speaking about the importance of helping children connect to and love the natural world. He is often called “the father of place-based education” and his work has inspired countless other writers and educators over the last several decades to “reclaim the heart of nature education”.

As part of the Inspire Speaker Series, co-hosted by Green Building Alliance (GBA) and Phipps, David Sobel will be speaking at Phipps Conservatory the evening of January 16th at 5:30 pm on How Schools and Community Institutions Can Utilize the Surrounding Community to Enhance Education and Engage Our Youth. He will then be teaching the following day alongside GBA and Phipps staff in a workshop for school administrators on integrating these principles at their own schools, as part of the Green Ribbon Schools program.

All that aside, you may wondering what he means by “place-based education” or “developmentally-appropriate curriculum”. These two ideas are connected and form the base of Sobel’s writing. Sobel believes that we should be helping children to engage in the plants, animals and character of their own neighborhoods and regions. He defines place-based education as “the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum”. Rather than using a tropical plant to teach about flowers, why not using a native plant? Why not learn about landforms using local topography instead of pictures from a text book? Sobel writes that getting education back to a hands-on, real-world learning experience that uses examples from students’ own lives is the key to helping them develop stronger ties to the community and the environment. By getting kids out in the their neighborhoods and bringing the neighborhood and its leaders into the classroom, we can create a new generation of active and engaged citizens.

In relation to the idea of place-based education, Sobel also writes about teaching children topics that are appropriate to their age and development. In environmental education, there is a tendency to teach young children about great tragedies like rainforest destruction and global warming rather than about animals and plants they can see around their school. This doom and gloom approach to environmental education often creates a fear so great that it can turn into dissociation; children would rather be totally disconnected from the world than face its complex and frightening problems. In order to create engaged citizens who will eventually solve these problems, we need to start on a more basic level.

Creating an attitude of love and wonder towards the natural world in young children and encouraging exploration in middle years creates older children who are capable of taking action against problems rather than retreating from them. Sobel recommends three separate phases of education based on development and age; in early years, activities should center on enhancing the development of empathy with the natural world; in middle childhood, focus on exploration; in early adolescence, social action should take precedence. In this way, children build a foundation to care for the earth as well as learn about its problems in a way that does not overwhelm them.

These two connected ideas, teaching children in a developmentally appropriate way about their local, and eventually global, environments is a model for success. Sobel’s ideas and teachings have been widely implemented in both formal and non-formal education settings, creating a clear and real change in how children learn about the environment.

Read our recent post about Sobel’s latest article in Orion Magazine, Look, Don’t Touch: The Problem with Environmental Education. (And our Director of Science Education and Research, Molly Steinwald’s, photography was featured in the print edition–as well as the cover of his most recent edition of Beyond Ecophobia!)

If you are interested in learning more about how to apply Sobel’s ideas to your own life and work, join us at Phipps on January 16th, 5:30-8:30pm for our Inspire Speaker Series. Learn more and register online at Green Building Alliance. Refreshments will be provided.

The top image was provided by the Green Building Alliance and bottom image by Molly Steinwald.

December 23, 2013

Participate in a Study of Personal Relationships to Nature

by Melissa Harding

Participate in a new study of personal relationships to nature, in collaboration with University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health!phipps relationship nature study science education

From the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers:

We are exploring the relationship of childhood experiences with plants and adult beliefs and behaviors towards plants and nature. For that reason, we are asking that you complete a brief (approximately 15 minute) questionnaire. You will be asked about your experiences with plants as a child, and your current level of interactions with plants, views about plants, and reasons for interacting with plants.

Each participant will be eligible to enter into a sweepstakes to win a free year membership to Phipps Conservatory.

There are no foreseeable risks associated with this project, nor are there any direct benefits to you. This is an entirely anonymous questionnaire, and so your responses will not be identifiable in any way. All responses are confidential and results will be kept under lock and key. Your participation is voluntary.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Jessica Burke from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She can be reached at 412-624-3610 if you have any questions.

Participate in the study here.

The above picture was taken by Julia Petruska.


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