Date of this Version
Albracht, C. A. (2016). Wilderness Restoration: A Case Study of Two Place-based Education Programs.
Research regarding outdoor environmental education programs for youth tends to be quantitative in nature, examining cause-and-effect relationships between program content and participants’ behavior and attitudes. Some researchers have suggested that programs that help foster an affective connection with nature in its participants may have more lasting and greater impact on participants’ pro-environmental behavior and attitudes than those that take a more cognitive approach. In other words, appealing to youth’s emotional sensibilities may go further than only teaching facts and skills about how to be better environmental stewards. In order to study these affective connections and how they might be fostered, studies of a qualitative nature are needed. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the pedagogical practices of a non-profit land trust organization in how it plans and conducts two nature-based programs for youth, one for upper elementary aged children and one for adolescents. The organization emphasizes a focus on local culture and ecosystems, thus embracing the term “place-based education” to identify its work. The findings of this study revealed four themes: the generic use of the term “Native Americans” and raising the question of how indigenous cultures should be regarded and integrated into place-based education; the use of technology to teach about nature and how it can be authentically integrated into nature-based programs to advance the learning goals of such programs; the notion of landscape literacy and developing youths’ awareness, appreciation and sense of the aesthetic to accomplish this; and the notion that outdoor education provides youth with “real” experiences and learning opportunities they are not likely to encounter elsewhere. Directions for future research are discussed, including the potential of technology integration with nature-based education programs, and the question of how best to integrate the teaching of indigenous culture as part of place-based education practices.
Advisor: Edmund T. Hamann