Connection to Nature Index


Cheng, J. C.-H., & Monroe, M. C. (2012). : Children’s affective toward nature. and , 44(1), 31–49.

Salazar, G., Kunkle, K., and Monroe, M. C. (2020). Practitioner’s guide to assessing connection to nature. Washington, DC, NAAEE.


The original tool was tested with 9- to 10-year-olds in Florida, USA (Cheng & Monroe, 2012) and has been used by organizations in the United Kingdom and New Zealand to obtain about childrens’ . The revised version, featured here, was tested with third to fifth graders in Taiwan. We recommend the revised version, which features a number of improvements over the original


This survey consists of 14 statements to which children respond on a five-point scale, in which 1 = Do not like at all and 5 = Like very much. 


Children ages 8 to 12 years old. 

When and how to use the tool

This tool could be used before and after a program to measure change in a child’s connection to nature or could be used as a one time measure of connection to nature at any time. Before using this tool to evaluate your program, think critically about whether your program is likely to change connection to nature in a measurable way. A short nature walk or one-hour program is unlikely to change a child’s feelings about the natural world or their emotional connection to nature. This tool may be appropriate for programs that have a longer duration or that are specifically designed to influence emotional relationships to nature.

How to analyze

We recommend entering survey responses into a spreadsheet using a program such as Microsoft Excel. Create a spreadsheet with 14 columns for the 14 statements and a row for each participant. Assign each child’s survey a , and enter their responses across the corresponding row. Using a 1–5 point scale, enter the equivalent value (1 for do not like at all to 5 for like very much). Enter a dot if the response was skipped.

You can create an average Connection to Nature Index (CNI) score for each individual by adding all of their responses and dividing by the number of questions answered. Do not include skipped questions for which you entered a dot. The average will be between 1 and 5. CNI scores of 1–2 indicate a lower connection to nature; a score of 3 indicates neither a low nor a high connection; and scores of 4–5 indicate a higher level of connection to nature.

When administering the pre-experience survey and post-experience , you can conduct higher-level statistics on your data to understand if participants had significant changes in the outcome areas after their participation in the program. 

What to do next

Once you’ve administered your survey and analyzed the data, consider the following suggestions about what to do next: 

  • If a baseline measurement suggests that your audience has low CNI scores, you might want to design a program that can help increase connection to nature. 
  • You could compare populations to determine if members have different connection to nature scores than the general , or if one geographic area of your is different from another. This could also provide justification for program development, marketing, or funding proposals.
  • If you used the CNI to evaluate your program by administering it to participants before and after programming, do you see a change in scores between the and ? Keep in mind that you may not see a change, particularly if your program is short in duration or is not designed to influence children’s emotional connection to nature.
  • Invite program staff or other partners to look over the data. Together you might also consider:
    • What do these results tell us about our programming? Why do we think we got these results?
    • What did we think we would see with respect to connection with nature? And did these data support our goals?
    • If our results did not support our goals, can we brainstorm on areas within the programming or delivery to influence connection to nature? What changes should be made to programming, or how should new programs be designed?
    • Who in our community should we reach out to for collaboratively discussing program design?
    • Who or what organizations can we share our learning with?

How to see if this tool would work with your program

Before using this tool with a large group of children, you may want to the tool. To make sure that children understand the tool, you can conduct think-aloud where children talk you through their understanding of the different statements. This can help you identify words or instructions that they may find confusing. This may be particularly important if you translate the tool into a different language or if you are using the tool in a culture other than the one in which it was originally developed. 

Tool Tips

  • This tool is best used in its entirety, but nouns in the , such as rocks or shells, can be changed to a more appropriate example. 
  • Allow for ample programming time for children to complete this survey.