Children's Active and Passive Interactions with Plants Influence Their Attitudes and Actions toward Trees and Gardening as Adults

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6414

A nationwide phone survey of attitudes toward urban trees, participation in civic or educational activities, and memories of childhood experiences with gardening and nature was conducted with 2004 adults in large urban areas. We analyzed the influence of 11 childhood experiences and five adult demographic characteristics on three items: “Trees in cities help people feel calmer,” “Do trees have a particular personal, symbolic, or spiritual meaning to you?” and “During the past year, have you participated in a class or program about gardening?” Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions. Growing up next to urban elements, such as large buildings, had a small, but opposite, influence. Demographics played a role in adult attitudes and actions. While both passive and active interactions with plants during childhood were associated with positive adult values about trees, the strongest influence came from active gardening, such as picking flowers or planting trees. These results indicate that horticultural programs for children raised in urban surroundings with few or no plants can be effective in fostering an appreciation for gardening in adults.

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