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The theoretical framework of Stephen R. Kellert linking nature and the built environment was used as the basis for this research. This case study research was conducted to describe the effect nature had on learning among children 3 to 6 years of age attending two north central Florida Montessori learning environments. Methods were examined by which this phenomenon might be studied in more detail in order to: (a) provide verification of the independent and dependent variables, (b) establish the empirical measure of learning outcomes, and (c) provide the refinement of the variable learning outcomes as influenced by nature.
A qualitative mixed method approach conducted in two phases was used to derive and further refine the learning outcomes variable as influenced by natural environmental features. Surveys of and interviews with instructors and staff and observations of 42 children across the two settings documented environmental features that were present or absent. The result of this study provided the validation of variable sets, methods, and the research design for future testing. These findings offer a more precise means to measure nature’s effect on learning by children that should be of value to practitioners in the designing of learning environments and to instructors utilizing these facilities.
Advisor: Betsy Gabb