Gross National Happiness for Children : Embedding GNH values in education
Children’s wellbeing is of increasing concern globally, as seen by the development and implementation of the UN convention on the rights of the child. Increasingly, children are being diagnosed with problems associated with lack of physical fitness and obesity, or mental health problems including depression. Schools and educational establishments play a key role in supporting children’s intellectual, physical and emotional development. Educational models are now more aware of the importance of a holistic approach to children’s education, focussing not only on academic knowledge, but also physical and mental health and wellbeing, especially personal, social and emotional development. Reconnecting children with nature, through learning in the natural environment, is seen as a way forward in many countries. The cultural value of the natural environment is clearly identified in ecosystem services frameworks, and in national ecosystem assessments. This paper reviews the role of learning in the natural environment in supporting children’s education and wellbeing, drawing on the author’s empirical research on farm education, forest school and outdoor science learning. It concludes with a discussion of the challenges of identifying suitable indicators for such a holistic model of education.