|Abstract or Summary
- Learning is a complex phenomenon, involving three major modes, i.e., affective or emotional, cognitive or intellectual, and evaluative or values-laden (Kellert 2002, 2005). The environments in which this learning takes place can make a significant difference in the degree to which these modes of learning are enhanced. Natural ecosystems (in various stages of succession) have been shown to be among the most effective environments in this regard, due mainly to their complexity, variability, and dynamism, which in turn elicit such responses as satisfaction, delight, joy, excitement, and curiosity (Cobb 1977, Kellert 1996). Moreover, it has been shown that encounters with nature can reduce stress or mental fatigue and thereby subsequently enhance cognitive functioning, creativity, and performance in a range of environments (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989, Hartig et al. 1991, Ulrich et al. 1991, Kaplan 1995, Kellert 2002, Burdette and Whitaker 2005, Taylor and Kew 2006). Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that actual physical contact with nature in a spontaneous and unstructured way enhances learning skills much more strongly than structured or symbolic contact with or experience of nature, especially in children (Kellert 1996, 2005). These findings are in keeping with Kaplan’s (1995) and other’s (Chang and Pergn 1998, Hartig et al. 2003) observations that unstructured contact with nature following periods of structured and focused attention and associated mental fatigue in adults, can result in restoration from such fatigue and thereby subsequently enhance learning and productivity. There is some evidence that contact with trees, especially in savanna settings, enhances learning more than contact with other life forms and ecosystems because of their importance to the survival of humans early in their evolutionary history (Quantz 1897, Heewagen and Orians 1993, Kahn 1999). These findings may have important implications for the teaching and learning process in institutions of higher education and beyond. In particular, they support the notion of less structured and more emotions- or values-laden environments for learning, which tends to run counter to traditional approaches in the academy.
Key Words: learning, affective, cognitive, restorative, unstructured
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