Date of this Version
Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2015
The data used in this study was obtained at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (SANC) preschool in Milwaukee, WI. The purpose of this study is to qualitatively and quantitatively examine how effective nature center preschools are as a teaching tool for early childhood environmental education. This study is significant for generating new knowledge of the ecological concepts young children do and don’t understand, as well as to the future application of designing curriculum and implementing early childhood environmental education programs in the United States. Children are unhealthy, spending less time outside, and are environmentally illiterate (Louv, 2008; Roberts & Foehr, 2008; Driessnack, 2009; Louv, 2009; Coyle, 2005). Exposing children to nature, and implementing environmental education in early childhood programs can solve the growing concerns of today’s youth and develop in an increase in understanding of ecological concepts. The research questions include: 1) Is there a change in knowledge of ecological concepts over a year period? 2) What improvements could nature center preschools make to increase learning of ecological concepts? The research questions were examined by coding interviews completed by children who attend the SANC preschool, summing the frequencies, and interpreting the frequencies using statistical analysis. The statistical analysis of the frequencies of indicators expressed during the fall and spring provides evidence that seven out of the thirteen indicators had a significant increase in expression therefore an increase in knowledge. An improvement that nature center preschools can make is to increase time spent on teaching concepts related to earth systems. Early childhood environmental education provides opportunities for children to develop skills to be environmentally literate, improve physical and mental health, and be exposed to nature.