Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


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Poster presented at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, CEHS Student Research Conference, November 9, 2013.


Copyright (c) 2013 Julia Torquati, Julia Kroeker, and CarMun Kok


This research uses Moral Domain Theory to examine preschool children’s reasoning about conservation. Three criteria differentiate between moral, personal, and conventional issues: universal application to all people in morally similar situations; not contingent upon societal rules; justification tied to rights and welfare.

Kahn (2001) reported that young children use predominately “harm to nature” justifications when asked about potentially harmful actions such as throwing trash in a waterway. Based on his investigation on environmental moral reasoning of participants ages 6 years to young adulthood across multiple cultures, Kahn proposed a developmental model that progresses from justifications (for prohibiting an action) focusing on harm to nature, to anthropocentric and biocentric reasoning, which is later integrated into a biocentric coordination of human and nature oriented welfare.

The purpose of this study is to extend Kahn’s research to a younger age group than has been previously investigated, and to compare environmental moral reasoning of children who are attending a nature-focused preschool to that of children attending a non-nature focused preschool.

Research Questions

•Do preschool-aged children demonstrate understanding of harm to nature in the case of throwing trash in a lake? Is the level of understanding similar or different from that reported for 6-year-old children in Kahn’s (2001) study?

•If preschool-aged children judge throwing trash in a lake as wrong, how do they justify their judgment? Do justifications differ by preschool type?

•Do preschool-aged children consider harm to nature as a moral issue that transcends location and social convention?

•Do preschool-aged children consider pets, wild animals, plants, and parks/gardens to be important, and why?

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