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Dr. Amy Wagenfeld: Nurture through Nature: A Virtual Infusion of Nature Infusion in the Online Classroom

Nurture through Nature: A Virtual Infusion of Nature Infusion in the Online Classroom

A substantial body of evidence-based research demonstrates that viewing nature reduces stress and improves mood. Learning environments, whether virtual or in-seat can be stress inducing.

I am honored to have spent the past semester teaching and working with an amazing group of post professional occupational therapy doctoral students from Boston University. By now it is pretty evident that I am all about the human-nature connection, and I wanted to give our weekly live classes a natural theme. Why so? A substantial body of evidence-based research demonstrates that viewing nature reduces stress and improves mood. Learning environments, whether virtual or in-seat can be stress inducing. Knowing that viewing nature could reduce stress, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for an intervention!

Here is what transpired.  Each week for a two-part, 14 week course in our online post-professional occupational therapy doctoral program, students were invited to submit a nature photograph of their choice. One image per week was incorporated as the anchor slide in a PowerPoint lecture and the nature photographer of the week was given an opportunity to talk about their photo and the meaning it had for them. As you will soon see, they were amazing! The images became an eagerly anticipated part of the lecture and helped promote a positive learning experience. Anecdotal feedback from students about including nature images in the PowerPoint was that it was eagerly anticipated and well received. Comments included “so relaxing” and, “looking at the photos always made me feel like taking a deep breath before we started class.” The take home message from this ‘nature hack’ is simple, but profound. Classroom environments, virtual or in-seat, can be enhanced through incorporating nature images into lectures. It is an easily adaptable strategy that I highly recommend.

My students graciously agreed to share their photos, and each deserves to be credited by name for their photography. In alphabetical order they are: Rose Adams, Nathalie Aluisi, Kristi Bachelder, Rejielyn Cerdenio, Hayley Davis, Ryan Durkin, Angela Frame, Elizabeth Kocher, Shayla Means-Williams, Carson Mohler, Adriane Ransom, Kalie Simmons, Colleen Whiting. Thanks to all of you for making our weekly meetings that much ”nature”  better. I hope you enjoy viewing the photos as much as we did!

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As the photos are the sole property of my students, please do not reproduce them without permission.