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Connecting children to nature: integrating technology into nature programs and incorporating environmental education into an urban after-school program




Wesson, Mark, author
Bruyere, Brett, advisor
Teel, Tara, committee member
Broadfoot, Kirsten, committee member

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This thesis consists of two documents that describe different aspects of a broader project with the ultimate goal of connecting children and their families to nature. The first paper addresses the integration of technology and knowledge about people's wildlife value orientations (WVO's) to influence participation in nature programs. While a domination orientation defines wildlife primarily as a resource to be used and managed for human benefit, a mutualism orientation perceives wildlife as capable of relationships of trust with humans and as life forms deserving of rights and caring. These different orientations have different implications for response to wildlife issues and for participation in wildlife-related recreation. The mixed-methods study included survey data acquired from a sample of residents (n = 282) from Wake County, North Carolina and a subset of that sample that subsequently participated in focus groups and a pilot program about box turtle tracking using radio telemetry. Results indicated that interest in nature and nature programs incorporating technology was positive among all WVO segments - though the motivation for that interest was different for the distanced WVO group - and that the use of technology in nature programs can facilitate positive, nature-focused experiences for families. This research represents a step in developing methods for integrating technology into optimal programs directed towards segments of society with specific WVO's. The second paper examines the incorporation of Environmental Education (EE) into an after-school program in the Bronx, New York City. In this qualitative case study, focus group interviews were conducted to first determine parent and educator interest in and barriers to participation in nature programs and incorporation of EE into the curriculum. Interest level was high and a series of trainings in EE were conducted and evaluated. Findings reveal that some of the barriers to incorporating EE were only perceived barriers and successful integration is possible as long as interest and motivation is present. Staff showed significant confidence and ability to teach EE in there program after minimal training and were motivated to continue with the curriculum due to strong support from the students and parents. Methods from this study for effective incorporation of EE into an existing curriculum could be modeled in both the formal and non-formal classroom.


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environmental education


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