Children’s Relationship to Plants among Primary School Children in Finland: Comparisons by Location and Gender

Taina Laaksoharju, Erja Rappe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

There is considerable evidence that children in modern society are losing
their contact with nature and, more precisely, with green plants. Is this also the case in Finland, a northern country famous for its forests and wild nature? This study examines the relationship of 9- to 10-year-old Finnish schoolchildren with the green environment and plants. The data were gathered by a questionnaire
comprising structured and open-ended questions. The focus of the research was on two comparisons: first, on the nature and child relationship in rural and urban neighborhoods and, second, among boys and girls. Participants in the study amounted to a total of 76 children, 42 in the Helsinki suburb area and 34 in Paltamo. The results suggested that the children in rural surroundings had closer contact with nature than their urban associates. For example, the children of Paltamo reported to know the trees better, and considered human beings to be part of nature more often (100% vs. 76% of the pupils in Helsinki, P = 0,003). Similarly, the results showed that girls in the study (N = 48) were more interested in plants than boys (N = 28). For the girls, the beauty and joy of plants was important, whereas the boys appreciated plants as the source of life. After the pre-questioning, the children of Helsinki participated in an in-class horticultural intervention and 10 days later, answered a similar questionnaire again. The results of the open-ended questions revealed that equally to children in other Western countries, Finnish children may also be in danger of losing their direct contact with the natural environment. It was common to pass free time in organized sports such as hockey or football (boys), or by just walking and talking with friends (girls). Rural children told that they still built huts, pick berries, and climb trees, whereas urban children played in parks and city groves. The results suggest that it is essential to research
further the children’s own experiences if we are to understand, and subsequently, to enhance, the crucial role of the green environment in their lives. Horticultural interventions can be effective starting points to add to children’s knowledge, affection, and interest toward greenery, but it is highly recommended that they take place outdoors rather than indoors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHortTechnology
Volume20
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)689-695
ISSN1063-0198
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2010
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 415 Other agricultural sciences

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