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ERIC Number: ED557518
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 221
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3039-9900-0
An Exploratory Investigation of Children's Connectedness with the Natural World
Tugurian, Linda Paylun
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
The study examined environmental identity and its relationship to school science in 5th grade students (N=65) in a suburban public elementary school in the southern US using a mixed methods approach. This research was used to establish a proposed model of children's environmental identity, that may be of value to environmental and science educators seeking to improve children's environmental attitudes, pro-environmental behavior, and interest in school science. Children's environmental identity was viewed as a socio-cultural construct that describes the extent to which the child sees him/herself as part of the natural world. Qualitative measures included field notes, classroom artifacts, and open-ended survey response items (N=65), as well as interviews with children (N=17) and a teacher from one class participating in a two-visit field intervention designed to impact children's environmental identity. Quantitative measures included the Connectedness to Nature Scale Revised (CNS-R) and the Children's Inclusion of Nature in Self Scale (INS). The first manuscript, "Toward a Model of Children's Environmental Identity," describes a mixed methods analysis of interviews and open-ended survey responses related to children's relationships with the natural world. Student interviews and survey items were coded thematically using Kellert's typology of values of nature and Cobern's views of nature. Several themes emerged from the data, including children's experiences with the natural world, their interests in natural science, and the influence of others including parents, teachers, and peers that informed the development of a Proposed Model of Environmental Identity in Children. Children with strong environmental identities felt science at school failed to acknowledge their way of knowing about the world. Children's environmental identities were not recognized by the classroom teacher or peers. Children's CNS-R and INS scores reflected an overall positive connectedness to nature and ranged along a continuum. Connectedness to nature was correlated to student interest in school science, self-reported frequency of time spent in nature, and the presence of an adult who enjoyed spending time in nature. Providing opportunities for class experiences in the natural world and/or diagnostic use of the CNS-R and/or INS could give teachers more awareness of the environmental identity of their students that might be leveraged to increase children's interests in and connection with school science. The second manuscript, "Impacting Children's Environmental Identity in the Context of School Science," used a control-experimental group design to examine impacts to children's environmental identity associated with an intervention designed to improve children's connectedness with nature. Qualitative data, including observations, teacher and student interviews, and classroom artifacts shed light on specific aspects of the intervention that children felt impacted their thinking about the natural world. The CNS-R and INS, administered pre- and post-intervention to 5 th grade students (N=65), showed non-statistically significant increases in children's connectedness to nature in the experimental group but not in the control group. Strategies that impacted children's relationship with nature included a deliberate focus on children's fears in nature, time for reflection on feelings about the natural world, a class-shared experience situated in the outdoors, and free-choice learning in the natural world. Class members were more able to recognize and identify the environmental identity of others as a result of the intervention. Participants suggested that school science, as opposed to learning in nature, was constrained by the classroom setting and lack of free-choice learning opportunities for students. Interventions that seek to improve children's relationship to the natural world should be based outdoors. Educators ought to consider including elements that address children's emotional responses to the natural world, especially time for reflection and free exploration to enhance this relationship. Elementary science educators ought to consider benefits of including similar components in their science instruction. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 5; Intermediate Grades; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A