Ms Sarah Johnson

Research project: Design Tools To Educe ‘Regenerative Empathy With Nature' Disposition In Middle Childhood


- Halve CO2 emissions by 2030 and decarbonise by 2050 to keep global warming to liveable levels. (IPCC, 2018)

- Restore habitat and end pesticide misuse or insects [and all that relies upon them] may be extinct within decades. (Sanchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys, 2019)

…This perilous planetary state is unsurprising to those engaged in an environmental movement that has been sounding the alarm for over five decades. We have now reached the endgame. Whether or not we are able to avert the worst-case scenarios of climatic, biological and social collapse, it is clear change is coming. 

We can either proactively rise to the systemic challenges inherent in the ‘wicked problems' of the Anthropocene, refiguring humankind's relationship with the earth to one of Sustainment (Fry), celebrating our entanglement (Barad, Haraway) with the more-than-human (Abram) and mitigating disaster; or we will need to reactively adapt to a more dangerous world. For good or bad, new ways of being in the world will be required for a time of transition; both scenarios benefit from ‘Regenerative Empathy with Nature' through human and other-than-human:

Care – compassion, fairness, humility

Community – conflict resolution, co-operation, listening

Creativity – envisioning, flexibility, responding

The project intent is to create tools that help draw out ‘Regenerative Empathy with Nature' in middle childhood (7-11). It is proposed that practicing relating and appropriately responding to the plight of the other-than-human at this pivotal development stage helps establish an ecocentric (Leopald), caring, communal, and creative orientation that will rise positively to challenge. Drawing on ‘sustainability' education models – including Head-Heart-Hand (Orr), Systems Thinking (Meadows), Deep Ecology (Macy) – alongside Critical Pedagogy (Freire) and Design Thinking, the practice output is a design enquiry toolbox to support the classroom delivery of hands-on, affective, empathy-led, formative experiences that educe, nurture and embed ‘Regenerative Empathy with Nature' disposition in Key Stage 2. 

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Design Tools To Educe ‘Regenerative Empathy With Nature' Disposition In Middle Childhood


Since graduating from Goldsmiths BA Eco Design in 2003 I have worked in the field of 'sustainable' design - as curator, designer and educator. After thirteen years of public projects through [re]design and WEmake – in collaboration with creative institutions such as British Council, Southbank Centre, Design Museum, and Design Council – I returned my studies and more formal educational interventions. My practice-based Design PhD seeks to find meaningful, practical ways to intervene in mainstream upper primary education, to help restore humans as nature and create regenerative cultures.

Areas of research interest

  • Design Pedagogy
  • Sustainability Literacy


  • BA Eco Design, Goldsmiths, University of London

Funding or awards received

  • London Doctoral Design Centre