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Experiential course's impact on students' beliefs and behaviors of nature as a well-being strategy

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis was to assess if an experiential field course influenced behaviors about nature immersion as a well-being strategy, investigate what behavior changes were affected by the course, and explore if components of behavior change theory emerged from the course. Additionally, this thesis explored the components of the experiential course that participants perceive as impactful on their beliefs and behaviors about nature as a well-being strategy. A mixed methods approach, including both nature-log surveys and interviews, was used to assess participant perceptions of their nature experiences, as well as impactful components of the experiential course, before and after the course. Participants underscored changes in behavior, including use of nature as a stress management strategy and finding new opportunities to experience nature close to home, work, and school. While frequency of nature experience did not increase for course participants throughout the following four months (from summer to early winter), it also did not decrease as it did for the control group during the same period. From participant self-assessments, components of behavior change that emerged include changes in beliefs and attitudes about the benefits and importance of nature experiences. Components of the experiential course that participants perceive as impactful include pairing of course content with experiential learning, learning alongside classmates with whom they could process, and the lack of technology and internet access. Implications include how education can promote beliefs and behaviors around nature as a well-being strategy, the importance of nature around people's homes, schools, and work, and designing experiential courses with the components that students perceived as impactful. We recommend future research that explores how to further promote behavior change, including by emphasizing the COM-B system's essential conditions of opportunity and motivation.

Description

2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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Subject

environmental education
pro-environmental behavior
belief
well-being
nature experience

Citation

Associated Publications