The present action research project is structured around the concept of the nature deficit disorder. The first part of the literature review attempts to explore and review current research that focuses on the nature deficit disorder and to present the critique that it has been a subject to. In the current project when the term nature is being used, it refers to the local green outdoor spaces.
The nature deficit disorder, a term introduced by Louv (2006), is attempting to describe the lack of connection between the young people and the natural world and explore its implications on an environmental, social, psychological and spiritual level. According to Louv (2009), the term nature deficit disorder is not a medical term but a description of the growing gap between human beings and nature, with implications for health and well-being. When it comes to the development of a positive relationship between the children and nature, Louv (2009) emphasises the significance of the collaboration between the teachers and parents/carers, an idea that has been critical for the current research project. The importance of the nature deficit disorder is supported by Driessnack (2009) as the answer given to the the question of whether members of the paediatric domain should be aware of it is the following: even though the nature deficit disorder does not constitute an official diagnosis, it is important to be known by paediatric nurses. In the same report, Driessnack (2009), mentions various researchers who have identified and underlined the changes that children nowadays experience because they spend more time indoors rather than in outdoor spaces. One point underlined, is the fact that children are aware of global environmental issues through their education but simultaneously their knowledge of their local or even their garden’s ecosystem is restricted (Driessnack, 2009).
The term natureand the meaning it evokes when used in concepts such as nature deficit disorder, has been subject to critique by researchers. The appraisal that this concept has received, stems from the essence of the term nature itself and the place that humans have in relation to it. Fletcher (2017), pinpoints an oxymoron in the attempt to study the connection of humans with nature. Fletcher critiques the term of nature that humans have created as a social-cultural construction and its conceptualization will vary according to different contexts. The oxymoronic idea according to him is that environmental education activities intended to reconnect the people involved with nature, are suggesting that nature is both something separate from them and something of which they are part of (Fletcher, 2017). Argyrou (2004), explains that in order to have this point of view, from which, one can perceive the concept of nature, we must distance ourselves from the unity itself, which is a contradictory point of view if we consider that humans can be perceived as a part of nature. This action research project has used the term nature deficit disorder as a focal point and expression of the main problem. The attempt is to understand its implications to appreciate the significance of bridging the gap of children and outdoor experiences through education.