The Origins of Aesthetic and Spiritual Values in Children's Experience of Nature


  • Gretel Van Wieren Michigan State University
  • Stephen R. Kellert Yale University



children’s aesthetics and spirituality, childhood experiences of nature


We conducted a limited exploratory study of the origins of children’s aesthetic and spiritual values in their experience of the natural world. We relied on a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries, and observational studies of children, as well as conversations with parents about their children and their own childhood. Even though con?dent conclusions cannot be drawn from this study given the relatively small sample size, a number of preliminary results emerged that suggest the role of nature in the development of children’s aesthetic and spiritual values. These included children’s articulation of an aesthetic sense of beauty, pattern and order, wonder and discovery; and the expression of such spiritual attributes as feelings of solace and peacefulness, commonality and connection, happiness and feeling at one with and at home in nature, a power greater than oneself, and a sense of divine presence or mystery.

Author Biographies

Gretel Van Wieren, Michigan State University

Department of Religious Studies Assistant Professor

Stephen R. Kellert, Yale University

School of Forestry & Environmental Studies TweedyOrdway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology


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How to Cite

Van Wieren, G., & Kellert, S. R. (2013). The Origins of Aesthetic and Spiritual Values in Children’s Experience of Nature. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 7(3), 243–264.