If you want city kids to care about the environment, have them collect it. According to a new report from researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University, childhood experience with nature is the most important factor in predicting whether children will grow up to appreciate it. And the most impactful kind of childhood experience is active engagement with plants and animals.
Researchers Tetsuro Hosaka, Koun Sugimoto, and Shinya Numata surveyed 1,030 adult residents in Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures. The survey recorded the frequency of respondents’ participation in different nature-related activities before age 12, and then asked about their feelings and familiarity towards different animals as well as their willingness to live near such animals. The results showed that having experiences with nature in childhood influenced how much people liked and were inclined to coexist with animals. The survey does not, however, probe what concrete actions these individuals would be willing to take to protect nature and animals.