Learning Frameworks Overview

 From our everyday choices, to how we build communities (even in dense urban environments), to national and global policy, nearly every aspect of our sensemaking, decisions, and societal infrastructure are shaped by culturally constructed conceptions of human relations with the natural world–what we refer to as nature-culture relations.  

This framework describes two predominant cognitive models of nature-culture relations 1) humans “apart from” the natural world, or what we call nature-culture divides; and 2) humans are “a part of” the natural world, or what we call nature-culture complementarities. This framework also highlights five dimensions of nature-culture relations across the types of nature-culture relations that structure everyday life for students, families, and educators and are played out in routine learning interactions. 

Dimensions and scales of nature-culture relations 

The core cognitive models of nature-culture relations are also systemic and are reflected across different scales and dimensions of life. In this framework we highlight five key dimensions including: 1) Human Activity, 2) Values, Knowledge Systems, and Ways of Being, 3) Power and Historicity, 4) Development and Cognition, and 5) Learning Environments. Understanding these different dimensions is important for educators to understand how culture, learning and identity are importantly intertwined with learning science. Understanding that teaching specific kinds of nature-culture relations is never a neutral endeavor – culture, power, and historicity are always present and thus matter for the kinds of learning opportunities we create and for whom. Science education has typically adopted a nature-culture divided orientation. This often persists even when learning about ecosystems and conservation. Learning in places is working towards learning environments that engage all of these five dimensions in order to create just and equitable learning environments that prepare young people for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. 

Dimensions and scales of nature-culture relations diagram
Dimensions and scales of nature-culture relations 

Suggested Citation

Learning in Places Collaborative. (2021). Framework: Nature-Culture Relations. Bothell, Seattle, WA & Evanston, Il: Learning in Places.