A UBC Okanagan researcher says children are able to play outdoors and engage with nature, even while holding a mobile device.
Maxine Crawford, a PhD candidate in psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, conducted a study with more than 740 children aged 9 to 14 from nine different schools.
Crawford gave three groups of children different tasks in recreational areas including Wetland Park, Grasslands Park, and the indoor tropical gardens.
One group toured a park with an iPad using an app called Agents of Discovery. Another group toured with a trained park educator and the third group with a paper map.
A statement from UBC Okanagan says the iPad group and the park educator groups spent time identifying and discussing their natural surroundings.
After the tour, the children were asked questions to determine their connection to nature, whether they had fun, their attitude toward the park and if they retained any knowledge of the park’s flora, fauna or ecology.
“All three groups had a significant increase in their connection to nature from before to after the tour. This suggests that the mobile application did not distract the children by taking their attention away from their natural surroundings or impede their connection to nature,” Crawford says.
Crawford says there was one prominent variance between the three groups.
“One significant difference was how much more fun the children had in the mobile application group,” Crawford adds. “This finding is important as enjoyment is crucial for repeat behaviour and fundamental to place-based education.”
Crawford’s research was recently published in Environment and Behavior and partially funded by Mitacs and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.