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The emotional impact of nature seen through the lenses of Virtual Reality (VR) and revealed through the power of expressive art PART 1

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posted on 27.09.2021, 20:50 by Gabriella RodolicoGabriella Rodolico, Pieter van der Houwen, Paria Goodarzi, Frank Llinas Casas, Fiona McGregor


Gabriella Rodolico, Fiona McGregor, Pieter van der Houwen, Paria Goodarzi and Frank Llinas Casas

We have recently organised a series of workshops based on the emotional exploration of nature and on the need to raising awareness of sustainability issues through emotions.

We decided to follow a progressive planning starting from an Explorathon (https://www.explorathon.co.uk/) event with a focus on classroom teachers and progressing with a contribution to the Festival of Social Sciences @ESRC #ESRCFestival @UofGSocSci (FoSS) by involving the same teachers' classes and a total of 200 students from a mainstream and an ASN school. During the Explorathon phase teachers had the chance to experience both: hands-on Virtual Reality (VR) sessions by exploring nature and Expressive Art strategies-based sessions by analysing and trying new ways to express their emotions. The Explorathon phase was completed in September 2021. During the FoSS phase in November 2021, teachers will implement the same workshops with their own classes by reflecting on what they experienced, and tailoring material and resources around the needs of their own pupils wit a focus on how the Social Sciences can support sustainability issues, but approaching it by the peculiar angle of exploration of own emotions as human beings when immersed in Nature.

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of the social sciences and a key element of ESRC’s commitment to promote awareness of UK social science research to new audiences. The events shaping our world, from climate change to Brexit and coronavirus, to geopolitical tensions and civic protests, reveal how social science is more important than ever to understanding the world. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all every day – at work, in school, when raising children, within our communities, from the personal and local, to the national and global level. The ESRC Festival of Social Science offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives – both now and in the future. Discover how it shapes public policy and contributes to making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st-century society.

Our project has 2 main goals for both teachers and pupils

1) to promote understanding of environmental issues through the exploration of nature and through the recollection or paraphs the generation of emotions supported by Virtual Reality approaches
2) to strengthen connectedness with nature through the exploration of those emotions and explicit expression of them supported by expressive art media.

The key points are based on the evidence that the increasing disconnection between modern societies and nature is one of the greatest sustainability challenges of our time.

Each individual can develop a unique subjective nature connectedness, based on a cognitive, affective, and experiential connection with the natural environment.

Unfortunately, with travel restrictions imposed by financial barriers and more recently Covid-19 pandemic, it is difficult or even impossible for some people to experience a wide range of different environments and these could affect not only their connectedness to nature but also the way their react to a crisis such as a pandemic.

VR has been proven to have an impact on emotions and maybe it could support the explorative element of connections to nature, although it has to be clearly stated that the concept of connection to nature is very complex and made of several level of intervention: material, experiential, cognitive, emotional, and philosophical.

Watching the beauty of nature while walking in a rain forest or experiencing the consequences of a climate caused catastrophe like a fire could add a layer of emotions to what we already know from news and social media.

Furthermore, we considered that generating emotions is not enough. Reflecting and even more expressing them could be extremely hard. Evidence suggest that forms of expressive art- have a great potential to unveil nuances of human-nature connectedness that lie beyond words due to their capability of tapping into emotions and embodied experiences.



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