Research Summary

Children’s emotional experiences in and about nature across temporal–spatial entanglements during digital storying

Engaging children in digital storying can support children in expressing and sharing their emotional experiences.

Literacy
2022

This study explores how children’s emotional experiences in and about nature manifested across temporal and spatial entanglements in their digital storying. Digital storying is defined as the children’s crafting and sharing of their stories in and outside the classroom using digital technology. This approach of using storying allows children to use stories as a way to express and elaborate on their thoughts, hopes, and ideas about the environment. Emotionality refers to what emotional experiences characterize children’s digital storying in and about nature. Spatiality draws attention to the environment and spaces children refer to in their stories, and what spaces their digital storying are situated in. Temporality concerns how the children’s digital storying evolves, changes or persists over time.

The study involves a review of empirical data from a case study of two 8-year-old children at a Finnish primary school that uses digital storying activities in their neighborhood using an augmented storytelling app, MyAR Julle. The app, inspired by Nordic folktales, invites the children to ‘capture’ Julle, a forest elf, in nature and to create and share their stories back in the classroom. Sixty-two children were engaged in two workshops at their school and data was collected as part of a 4-month research project. The children went outdoors and investigated environmental issues in their local neighborhoods and forests and shared their stories with the researchers. The researchers analyzed how children “re-story about their stories” in their interviews which included open-ended questions that focused on five themes: (1) sharing the Julle story, (2) children’s embodied and sensory experiences in nature, (3) children’s emotions about nature, (4) children’s perspectives towards nature and the human–nature relationship and (5) identity, if the children identified themselves as a ‘nature child’.

The study found that children expressed themselves as competent and engaged in creating stories connected to the environment. They discussed emotional experiences connected to nature and communicated their values and affection for nature. The children in the study connected their storying with their own personal local nature experiences and broader global topics such as climate change. The children also confronted tensions between humans and non-humans as they related to deforestation, animal extinction, and pollution.

This research highlights the value of digital storying as a method which provides children with opportunities to explore and communicate their emotional experiences related to nature. It also demonstrates how spatial-temporal dimensions in children’s storying reveal their rich communication from their own experiences to more broader ones around societal narratives related to the environment.