Understanding Early Fire Learning and Experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand
The current study presents exploratory research on how people in Aotearoa New Zealand learn about fire growing up, and how they think and feel about fire as adults. The research aims to fill the empirical gap in research on fire and fire learning. An anonymous qualitative survey was conducted with 40 community participants through the crowd sharing platform Prolific Academic. Participants also answered the Fire Setting Scale, used as a descriptive measure to determine the range of fire interest scores among the sample; scores were well spread and the sample slightly negatively skewed. Thematic analysis was used and six themes comprising 13 subthemes were developed to answer the two research questions; 1. How do adults in Aotearoa NZ learn about fire growing up? and 2. How do adults in Aotearoa NZ think and feel about fire now? The first question was answered with four themes comprising ten subthemes. The first theme discussed participants’ descriptions of their notable reactions to fire memories, the second described the development of norms about fire and fire use, the third learning how and where fire can be used through direct experiences, and the fourth discussed participants descriptions of learning about fire mechanisms and safety. Research question two was answered with two themes and three subthemes, the first theme discussed the idea that in regard to fire, knowledge is power. The second theme looked at participants’ emotional congruence with fire and identified these emotions as existing on somewhat of a continuum. The findings determined that the current emphasis on social learning theory among the fire literature is not without basis, and that parental modelling and reinforcement, as well as sensory reinforcements, play a large role in the way individuals experience and learn about fire. It is also clear from this study that there is a wide variety in the levels of fire safety education delivered to young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Further research is needed with comparative groups to determine how different learning and perceptions may influence an individuals’ fire use in adulthood.