Why are children not interested in science?

Alienation from nature: Children are less and less exposed to nature

At the latest by the age of 40 you know that everything was better in the past: children played "robbers and gendarmes" on the street, built tree houses - from boards and tarpaulins, not from Minecraft cubes -, dammed up brooks, and came up dirty and with open knees in the evenings Home and fell into bed exhausted after the "Sandman". Today children spend a large part of their time indoors and hardly come into contact with nature. The picture may be exaggerated, but the trend seems clear.

The "Jugendreport Natur" has been tracking young people's relationship with nature for 20 years. For the 7th report from 2016, 1253 schoolchildren in grades 6 and 9 in North Rhine-Westphalia were surveyed. "The results clearly show that the distance to nature is getting bigger and bigger," says Rainer Brämer, initiator and author of the "Jugendreport Natur". It is amazing that even basic knowledge is lost. Only 35 percent of those surveyed knew where the sun rises. A fifth checked "North". In 2010 two thirds of the participants answered correctly. Only a quarter of the participants answered the question of the latest month in which the sun sets.

Another task was, for example: "Name three edible fruits that grow here in the forest or on the edge of the forest." Only twelve percent solved them correctly. The most common names were blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. Nuts, beechnuts and mushrooms followed a long way behind. Local fruits such as apples and pears dominated the wrong answers, but bananas, mangos and pineapples were also mentioned. The results are frightening in many respects, write the authors of the "Youth Report": "On the one hand, many children and young people do not seem to know which edible fruits grow in the forest. On the other hand, quite a few assume that fruits are available in the supermarket can easily be collected in the forest. "

"The phenomenon of alienation from nature is hardly noticed in German-speaking countries" (Rainer Brämer)

"The phenomenon of alienation from nature is hardly noticed in German-speaking countries," says the physicist and natural sociologist Brämer. "Neither psychology, nor sociology, nor natural sciences feel responsible for researching the role of nature in everyday life." In America and England, on the other hand, there is a growing awareness of the subject and a multitude of studies. The catchy term "Nature Deficit Disorder" was coined for the lack of connection between children and nature.

Technology versus nature?

As early as 2002, a study from England found that eight-year-olds can distinguish 78 percent of all Pokémon characters, but only 53 percent of common British animal species. When it comes to species identification, however, there is also a problem with adults: An evaluation by British environmental activist George Monbiot of articles on ash dieback showed that half of the contributions were illustrated with pictures of beech, oak or sycamore. "The parents' generation has already lost important connections to our species-specific biotope and can therefore no longer make them for their offspring," says Brämer.

The development is also noticeable in our communication culture, because concepts of nature are also disappearing from song texts, novels and films. For their study, published in March 2017, the two psychologists Selin and Pelin Kesebir searched 6000 song texts and as many novels and screenplays dating back to 1900. Their result: Since the 1950s, bird, tree and flower names as well as nature terms such as sunset have been going back in our linguistic usage. In part, this is a conscious decision: When the youth edition of the "Oxford Dictionary" was reissued in 2015, well-known British authors protested against the choice of words: natural terms such as canary, grassland and blackberry had been deleted from the youth dictionary to To give way to words like blog, voicemail and BlackBerry (smartphone brand). For the two sisters this is a clear indication that humans are losing contact with nature. The psychologists see the cause in technical progress, above all in the increase in recreational and entertainment opportunities at home, i.e. television and later video and internet games.