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Beginning in the 1890s, the nature study movement advocated direct contact with the natural world to develop in children an appreciation for natural history, the beginnings of scientific inquiry, aesthetic and spiritual interests as well as the motivation to conserve nature. Defense of nature study pedagogy came from the theory of recapitulation. Recapitulation held that as humans developed they repeated the evolutionary history of the human race. Children were thus thought to be like Indians: primitive people with an innate closeness to nature. The most popular proponent of these ideas was Ernest Thompson Seton, widely read author, illustrator, and founder of the nature study boys club, the Woodcraft Indians. Nature study advocates hoped that the theory of recapitulation would allow them to bridge the modern and romantic, antimodern tendencies in their movement. Despite an intense focus on premodern virtues, nature study and the Woodcraft Indians mostly served to ease the tensions and incongruities of modern life.
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