Christiana Glettler is a PhD student in Biology Didactics at the Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria. As she is also a lecturer at the college of teacher education in Graz, educating future primary school teachers, her work focusses on young children. The presented study explores a possible connection between research on outdoor learning and how children profit from nature experience and research on Education for Sustainable Development. Using case study methodology, the study explored how children engage in outdoor activities at educational facilities through the lens of general ESD goals and the concept of shaping competence (de Haan & Harenberg, 1999; de Haan & Plesse, 2008) in particular.

The selected cases are a small forest kindergarten with 14 children in the relevant age group and three educators and the first year of a private primary school with a focus on outdoor education. In both institutions, interviews were conducted with educators as well as with the children. Participant observation and document analysis were used to gather further data. In addition, questionnaires were given to the children's parents to provide their point of view as well.  

The findings suggest, that both the philosophy and the practical implementation of educational institutions focussing on nature experience, corresponds greatly to the goals and principles of ESD, giving special attention to the different roles of nature. Furthermore, asked about the children‘s skills and abilities, the educators describe competences, which are called for in the concept of shaping competence.

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