When Despair Grows in Us: Emotional Learning in (Trans)Formative Places


  • Nicholas Richard Graeme Stanger Western Washington University


This paper considers a person's endogenous and emotional relationships to outdoor childhood or adolescent (trans)formative places. By revisiting the (trans)formative places of four citizens and filming the experiences, I gained an understanding of how these places engage emotional learning. The emotional data were explored through phenomenology and participatory analysis. Places transformed my participants through identity development, memory and anxiety, resiliency behaviour, nostalgia, and loss. My participants related to places through knowing a place and being home, engendering bliss and appreciation, the development of pride and hope, and experiencing emotionality. Part of our emotional development is linked to our relationships to place because we are, in some ways, part of that place. Returning to (trans)formative places can rejuvenate our relationships to those places through our emotional reactions.

Author Biography

Nicholas Richard Graeme Stanger, Western Washington University

Nick currently shares his time between deep outdoor play and high-tech online multimedia projects. This paradoxical interest has helped form his understanding and embodiment of the human-digital-nature conundrum we currently face in our westernized social fabric. Nick works as an assistant professor of environmental education at Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. He completed his Doctorate at the University of Victoria in 2014 and was a Social Sciences and Humanities Council Doctoral Fellow. The main focus of his research revolved around the learning that occurs within outdoor childhood places (www.transformativeplaces.com), and their lasting effects on our lives. With his background in natural resources, tree-canopy research, Masters in environmental education and communications, and significant work in conservation, Indigenous education, and technical web-based learning systems, his PhD represented an interactive online video journey designed to combine his skills, expertise, and interests. Nick sat as the Chair of the board for the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada from 2012-2015, an organization that seeks to connect organizations, families, and youth with nature-based experiences. He currently lives with his wife and son in Bellingham, Washington.


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