Draw Me a Picture of Nature


3987263373_c27ea2298e_oThe literary critic Raymond Williams once wrote that “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” It’s a head-scratcher right up there with love, or goodness: We depend on it for survival, but we’re often not quite sure where it is, what it is, or whether we’re a part of it. Jessica Mikels-Carrasco, who recently completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Notre Dame, asked a group of kindergarten and elementary-aged children in South Bend, Indiana, to weigh in on the puzzle. “Draw me a picture of nature,” she told them, and they did.

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

Gallery images courtesy of Jessica Mikels-Carrasco, who collected and analyzed them as part of her dissertation on the environmental sociology of children. Top image: A chalk drawing by Thomas Monro, an English artist and physician who lived from 1759-1833. Courtesy of the Shepherd Gallery.

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36 thoughts on “Draw Me a Picture of Nature

  1. wow i love their drawings honestly i don’t know what i would have drawn if it was me. nice work

  2. I love seeing the different perspectives the kids have on nature, especially the image showing the hopscotch besides the road. Often times whenever I hear the word, “nature” I think of birds, bees, butterflies, trees, grass, essentially anything not made by humans. But now that I think about it, humans are just as much a part of nature. We just don’t realize it sometimes.

  3. So interesting to see the contrast in depictions of nature from this perspective (i.e. scary nature vs. peaceful nature). Just serves to capture how little we really know about the world we live in.

  4. A true depiction of versatile views of nature and our part in it. How we see it is how we interact with it and effect it.
    A impressive and informative article.

  5. I love this, but I feel a little sad for the children who associated nature with scary things, it’s so important to engage children with the natural world and encourage curiosity and appreciation, even with the stingy bees and the scary bears!

  6. Why do we lose the ability to think this way? Children so often simply cut through the mess of confusion to the simple importance.

  7. Interesting, also somewhat scary to see views of art by juveniles depicting nightmarish scenes of nature. Ideas I am sure gleaned from there parents, who, by virtue of showing their fears, as in grabbing their kids then running out of , or away from the scene screaming, ‘will someone come and kill that moth, spider, snake’, etcetera, etcetera. A sure way of instilling a fear of nature in their kids. It happens in my extended family all the time, its a fear so acute that it even plays its self out when any of them come visiting. Its a sorry state of afairs, but in this highly technical, digital era, the media can be blamed for most of how nature is percived by adults and children alike. Programs with titles such as ‘Worlds Scariest, Critters’, ‘Worlds Most Nightmarish Ainimals’, ‘Dealy Sharks’ , documentaries all aimed at children. Children who usually scare their guardians with creatures from the garden, spend most of the time covering therr eyes behind a cushion, hiding behind the sofa, while watching these types of so called documentaries, is that right, I think not? Paintings of bears eating daddy should be expected., and that has to be scary. By all means make kid’s aware that there are circumstances that could endanger their lives if they don’t abide by a simple rule or two, like, ‘look, but don’t interfere with’, or ‘create a situation that puts themselves, or whatever they are observing in danger’.

  8. This is a very nice piece. I have looked at every sketch and just like comment-leavers before me, it is indeed interesting to see all these perspectives from little ones. I think too, what I would have drawn–but I bet the children didn’t have to think as long as an adult may have to–much more spontaneous! Thanks again.

  9. Refreshing to read. Agree with other commenters. Important insights about gently supporting children to interact with natural elements. Love Martin’s words: “the middle of nowhere” — a place he said was nice and peaceful. Pointers for urban planners (all of us really) – butterflies and grass and ‘nowhere’ space benefit everyone .

  10. Very interesting study! Thanks for sharing in a way that was simple to understand.
    As a teacher who loves nature, I find this article fascinating.
    I’d be interested in hearing studies done in different parts of the country. My nephew lives in a city in the southern United States. He hardly ever goes out in nature because it is hot and there isn’t much nature in the city and it’s often too hot to go outside anyway. He loves visiting my parents, who live in the country up north. It’s usually a comfortable temperature, and there are mountains and trees everywhere. I would love to see the differences in drawings of kids from urban vs. rural places and from hot vs. moderate climates.

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