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PhD studentship: Investigating the ways young children understand human-nature relationships through family engagement with Natural History Museum programmes

   School of Education, Communication and Society

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  Dr Jill Hohenstein  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The position will start on October 1st 2021, based at the King’s College London in collaboration with the Natural History Museum in London. 


The vital goals of preserving habitats to retain biodiversity, limiting global warming and reducing the risk of further pandemics require immediate and longterm action. This project seeks to examine ways that young children come to understand the natural world and their potential roles as advocates for the planet. Today’s children may be the last generation that can make a difference to stop environmental calamity. To help preserve the global environment and the natural world, it is important that people understand their connection to nature. However, research suggests that Western children (and adults) often lack an appreciation for their identity as part of the natural world. In contrast, a variety of formal and informal experiences can help children gain greater understanding about the natural world and their relation to it. As such, it is essential that young people are encouraged to establish feelings of connectedness to the natural world through such experiences. Natural History Museums are optimal settings to examine the ways that children and their families think about the natural world: these are relatively stable settings (e.g., not affected by weather) and hold myriad objects and activities that engage visitors. The Natural History Museum London (NHM) has developed an Advocate Engagement Model (AEM) to help design visitor experiences that will inspire longterm connection to nature and advocacy for the planet. This model builds on museum strengths for inspiring awe during a visit and extends this to look for means to inspire positive environmental action from child visitors after they have left the museum.

Aims of the PhD project

To test the AEM, a collaborative PhD project between the NHM and King’s College London’s School of Education, Communication & Society (ECS) will explore the ways that children’s (aged 6 to 11) experiences with their families at the NHM can lead to becoming an advocate for the planet. Using a developmental psychology framework, the research will rely upon child interviews and family museum visit observations in addition to questionnaire data from both children and their parents. These data will be examined qualitatively and quantitatively to enable the design and implementation of programmes and activities in the museum and elsewhere to facilitate children’s uptake of important roles as environmentalists. Findings will be disseminated through a variety of museum, academic and other communication platforms so that they can be capitalised upon in multiple educational settings.


Essential criteria

A good undergraduate degree (2:1 or first class) plus a Masters degree (Merit or above) in education, psychology, museum studies or a closely related discipline

Training in Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

An ability to work independently and as part of a team

Enthusiasm for understanding child learning in museums and environmental engagement

Desirable criteria

Knowledge of the literature on Museums, Cognitive Development, Environmental engagement

Some experience with methodological software (e.g., SPSS, NVivo)

Experience with working with children and/or families

Experience working in museums and/or environmental education


Funding is available to cover the cost of UK home/domestic fees* plus a stipend of for 3 years (rates for 2020/21 are £15,285). Other funds are also available for research costs.


Interested candidates should apply by emailing the following documents to [Email Address Removed]

1.     An up-to-date CV

2.     A completed Application form for the position available here (additional application to the doctoral programme will be required for the successful candidate)

3.    A personal statement, including suitability for the position

3.     Contact details for 2 referees, at least one of which should be a recent academic referee


Key dates

The deadline for applications is Friday, 26th February 2021.

Interviews will be held online in the week commencing 15th March 2021.

The successful candidate will be asked to complete a DBS check upon commencing the post.

The position will start on October 1st 2021 and be based at King’s College London, UK.

We particularly encourage applications from underrepresented groups in science and social science.

* This project is funded by the ESRC in the United Kingdom through the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS DTP) There is scope for some payment of International fees.

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