The Science, Action & Art of Reconnecting with Nature

This action research ( is learning about the benefits of reconnecting with nature through meaningful* experience. It is understanding how insights may be used to enhance sustainability action and education.

Donating to this project directly supports three interlinking aims:

1. Science: Strengthens capacity to further research on the links between meaningful experience and connectedness to nature…to better inform education for sustainability curricula(33%);

2. Action: Supports the emerging Baviaanskloof Nature Awareness Group: a grassroots cause initiated and driven by local youth as a result of their combined efforts to reconnect themselves, school children and broader community with nature (33%);

3. Art: Enhances creative efforts to improve public dialogue & self-awareness around the experience of reconnecting - through social networking and on-ground nature/wilderness education activities (33%).

Many sources speak of the need for humans to reconnect with nature. But what does ‘being connected’ with nature look and feel like? What would be capable of catalyzing and maintaining such a fundamental process of ‘re-connection’? What sort of experiential education is needed?

The research is being led by Matthew Zylstra. My research is motivated by these searching questions. I am exploring how meaningful* nature experiences and profound encounters with wildlife may act as catalysts for reconnecting humans with nature.

I am interested in the evidence, the characteristics, the conditions… and if humanity’s ability to have such experiences is under threat from biodiversity loss. Ultimately, I seek to learn how such experiences may inform education for social-ecological sustainability.

But enough about me and my interests. Because this is really about us. is the outreach and awareness portal for this PhD research. First and foremost invites the global public to share your compelling stories about your own meaningful nature and wildlife encounters. In doing so, the aim is to create awareness of the profound ways we benefit, interact and participate with nature.

Secondly, it seeks to interactively engage the broader public with regular news, blogs, tweets and photos of this research-in-action.

Thirdly, and critical to this transdisciplinary endeavour, the knowledge generated through this research is supporting co-learning with the Baviaanskloof Nature Awareness Group: a group of young enthusiasts with a passion to place nature back into the hearts of their communities. Together we are discovering what meaningful reconnection is about, improving our eco-literacy and striving to gain knowledge, skills and experience which can be shared with schools across the Baviaanskloof region.

We do this with the HOPE that we may improve our felt understanding of how humans can reconnect with the ‘wholeness’ of nature. And that together we dare to ask how this may shape future approaches toward education and sustainability…in the quest to become fully alive.

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*Meaningful = e.g. coincidental, peak; flow; synchronistic; symbolic; profound; mystical; awakening; religious; oneness; ‘a-ha’ experiences.

a project by

Using meaningful experience as a catalyst for reconnecting ourselves with nature.

in support of

The HOPE Project

TsamaHub (Centre for Transdisciplinarity, Sustainability, Assessment, Modelling and Analysis)