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Holding Environments Creating spaces to support children’s environmental learning in the 21 st century. Associate Professor Karen Malone School of Education, RMIT University. Holding Environments. Growing Up in the 21 st Century Children and Nature Botanical Gardens as Holding Environments.

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Holding EnvironmentsCreating spaces to support children’s environmental learning in the 21st century

Associate Professor Karen Malone

School of Education, RMIT University

holding environments
Holding Environments
  • Growing Up in the 21st Century
  • Children and Nature
  • Botanical Gardens as Holding Environments
growing up in the 21 st century
Growing Up in the 21st Century

How would you describe the world we live in?

How do you imagine the world to be for today’schildren when they are your age?

urbanisation of landscape
Urbanisation of Landscape
  • Accelerated rate of growth
  • World’s largest megacities are growing by 1 million people per week
  • By 2025 9 million people
  • 4 million in cities
  • 1.3 billion people live now in poverty
  • 30% High income children – 60% Low-income children
  • Future 6 out 10 children will grow up in cities in poverty

What does it mean to be a child growing up in cities?

What is their urban experience?

What do young people need?

What do they want?

what do children want
What do children want?
  • We want clean water and enough food to eat
  • We want to be healthy and have the space to learn, develop and play
  • We want friends and family who love and care for us
  • We want to participate in community life and be valued
  • We want to collaborate with adults to make the world a better place for all
  • We want peace and safety from threats of violence
  • We want access to a clean environment where we can connect with nature
  • We want to be listened to and our views taken seriously (UNICEF 1996)
children s rights
Children’s Rights
  • The Child’s right is to live in a safe, clean and healthy environment and to have the opportunity to engage in free play, leisure and recreational activities- (UNICEF 1992)
  • A child’s well-being and quality of life is the ultimate indicator of a healthy environment, good governance and sustainable development - (UNICEF 1997)
sustainable development
Sustainable development
  • The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilised to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all - (UNDEP 1992)
sustainable development1
Sustainable Development
  • Children have a special interest in the creation of sustainable human settlements that will support long and fulfilling lives for themselves and future generations. They require opportunities to participate and contribute to a sustainable urban future - (UNICEF 1997)

Dear World

Our world is dying because of all of us. Don’t throw bombs in the world and don’t cut down trees. Don’t kill the world. When we kill our world where can we live and where are we going to play and sleep?

Your loving friend John Mncube, Age 11, South Africa

children and nature
Children and Nature

Children have a unique, direct and experiential way of knowing the natural world- Malone and Tranter 2003a

This affinity with nature is not judged by its aesthetics but rather by the nature of their interaction with it as a tangible and ever-changing phenomenon – White and Stoeklin 1998.

natural play
Natural Play

Play is the means through which children learn – its is the process of doing, exploring, discovering, failing and succeeding – play enhances problem solving and promotes opportunities to experiment and creative thought – Malone and Tranter 2003)

natural play1
Natural play

“You have a look at nature’s way of living. You see more and discover things. I like to touch, feel and smell all the things. I like to fee; different leaves and twigs and discover animals that are camouflaged” – Amber age 7

places to play
Places to Play

A place for doing A place for thinking

A place for feeling A place for feeling

A place for being

botanical gardens as holding environments
Botanical gardens as ‘holding environments’

Winnicott on ‘Holding Environments’

“He considers play as transitional phenomenon because “it is not inside; nor is it outside” of the individual” – Corsco and Moore 2002

The ‘holding environment’ of the neighborhood can be a nurturing space for expanding creativity and establishing a sense of belonging” – Corsco and Moore 2002
holding environments1
Holding environments


innate connection children have with nature


link children have with the physical world

creativity, imagination, knowledge, understanding, connectedness, responsibility, ownership, place-making

creating spaces
Creating spaces
  • Environmental learning – constructed through play enhances sense of connectedness and responsibility for nature
  • Green spaces, such as botanical gardens, in the city are critical ‘holding environments’ and hold the potential for environmental learning.
  • Children should be able to develop intimate, reflexive and lasting relationships with nature
  • Children should be able to imagine, create and explore their sense of self in relation to the natural world
  • Children should be able to construct and design spaces which can respond to their actions and activities
the vision
The Vision

… a place where children can delight in nature and discover passions for plants. It will be a garden that celebrates the imagination and curiosity of children and fosters the creative nature of play

contact details
Contact Details

Associate Professor Karen Malone

School of Education

RMIT University, Melbourne,

Australia 3083

Tel: 61 3 99257850