Monsters or Good Guys: The Mediating Role of Emotions in Transforming a Young Child's Encounter with Nature


  • Carie Green University of Alaska Fairbanks


Nature-play inspires a sense of awe and wonder in young children, however, the uncertainty of elements in nature can also bring about fear and anxiety. Using sensory tours as a data collection method, this qualitative study explores the emotions of a four-year-old during his exploration of an imaginary "monster castle" in the forest, and the role an educator plays in supporting children's affective states. Negotiating emotions, both positive and negative, is important in strengthening a child's environmental identity. Just as children learn to regulate emotions in formal learning environments, their ability to regulate their emotions in nature instills a sense of comfort and trust, spatial autonomy and self-awareness, and environmental competency and self-confidence, which, in turn, influences their actions for the environment.

Author Biography

Carie Green, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Dr. Carie Green is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education, Graduate Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She teaches introductory research, place-based education and child development. Her research evolves around early childhood environmental education, methods of research by young children, and children’s place and environmental identity development.