What does nature mean to you? A photo analysis of urban middle school students’ perceptions of nature

Petra Bezeljak Cerv, Andrea Möller, Bruce Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we explore the perceptions of urban middle school students’ representations of nature using participatory photography and their nature connectedness. Preadolescents (N = 108, 6th grade, age 11–13) were asked to take a photo of what nature is to them and write a short description of what is in the image. In a mixed method study applying the ‘Inclusion of Nature in Self’ (INS) scale, we investigated (1) what are middle school students’ perceptions of nature as evidenced through their own photography, (2) what are the differences between students who are more connected with nature and those who are less connected and (3) how can photography be used as a tool to investigate students’ perceptions of nature? Students’ nature perceptions were diverse, with a majority showing plants and urban nature. Students mentioned positive emotions and aesthetic aspects of nature. Students who scored higher on the INS, defined as more connected to nature, photographed a greater diversity of phenomena and geographies, many outside of urban areas. Participatory photography proved to be an excellent choice for an inclusive data collection method in Education for Sustainable Development, especially for students with reading or writing difficulties or language barriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • connectedness with nature
  • education for sustainable development
  • middle school students
  • Nature perceptions
  • participatory photography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'What does nature mean to you? A photo analysis of urban middle school students’ perceptions of nature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this