Eco-Capabilities as a Pathway to Wellbeing and Sustainability

Walshe, Nicola, Moula, Zoe and Lee, Elsa (2022) Eco-Capabilities as a Pathway to Wellbeing and Sustainability. Sustainability, 14 (6). p. 3582. ISSN 2071-1050

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Eco-Capabilities is an AHRC funded project situated at the intersection of three issues: a concern with children’s wellbeing; their disconnect with the environment; and a lack of engagement with arts in school curricula. It builds on Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities as a proxy for wellbeing, developing the term eco-capabilities to describe how children define what they feel they need to live a fully good human life through environmental sustainability, social justice and future economic wellbeing. A total of 101 children aged 7–10 from schools in highly deprived areas participated in eight full days of arts in nature practice. The study drew on arts based research methods, participatory observations, interviews and focus groups with artists, teachers and children. Findings suggest that arts in nature practice contributed towards eight (eco-)capabilities: autonomy; bodily integrity and safety; individuality; mental and emotional wellbeing; relationality: human/nonhuman relations; senses and imagination; and spirituality. This was facilitated through four pedagogical elements: extended and repeated arts in nature sessions; embodiment and engaging children affectively through the senses; ‘slowliness’, which envelops children with time and space to (re)connect; and thoughtful practice, which facilitates emotional expression. We suggest that, through these elements, arts in nature practice supports children’s wellbeing, and guides them towards a more entangled relationship with nature and a clearer understanding of themselves as part of it, thereby motivating them to take better care of it.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: eco-capabilities, environmental and sustainability education, wellbeing, arts, nature, artscaping, outdoors, mental health, school, children
Faculty: Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 16 May 2022 15:22
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 16:18

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