Recent studies confirm that children profit greatly from being in contact with nature. A large body of research focuses on children’s psychological development in this respect. While the social and physical aspects are also well researched, less studies focus on the relationship between early childhood nature experience and sustainability education. In this paper, the central research question is concerned with this nexus, asking how children, who spend a lot of time outdoors, a) perceive nature, b) in what ways they act towards protecting nature and c) which competences they show in relation to sustainable development.
In order to answer these research questions, two case studies were conducted in an Austrian Kindergarten and a primary school. The findings show that the children in both institutions have a diverse image of nature, a close relationship with nature, are invested in protecting their environment and show several competences, which are considered vital for sustainability education. Thus, the findings indicate, that increasing the amount of time children spend outdoors could positively contribute towards a more sustainable future.