Date of Award

1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College/School

College of Science and Mathematics

Department/Program

Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Neeraj Vedwan

Committee Member

Pankaj Lal

Committee Member

Eric A. Stern

Committee Member

Michael Edelstein

Subject(s)

New Jersey School of Conservation, Environmental education--New Jersey, Nature conservation --Study and teaching--New Jersey, Ecology--Study and teaching--New Jersey, City children--New Jersey--Attitudes

Abstract

The main objective of this dissertation is to utilize multiple instruments to measure urban children’s nature conceptions, ecological worldviews, and environmental perceptions and preferences, and to determine whether they are impacted by an environmental education (EE) intervention. This information is critical today in light of growing urbanization that is considered a contributor to nature deficit disorder (NDD) in which children, particularly urban children, are growing up distanced from the natural world, thereby impacting children’s development, public health, and the environment. Urban children from northern New Jersey who attended the New Jersey School of Conservation’s (NJSOC) EE program participated in this study, as did three Americorps teachers, and one NJSOC program administrator. Six instruments were utilized to conduct the research, including the New Ecological Paradigm Scale for Children, photo-elicitation, the Draw Nature test, and three questionnaires. The study utilized qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis. The findings demonstrate that: (1) urban children espouse strong pro-ecological worldviews; (2) urban children positively perceive both natural and urban environments that are structured and appear safe; (3) urban children prefer urban environments that are not dilapidated; (4) urban children have an object view of nature and conceive of it as a series of living and non-living things that exhibit limited interactions with one another, and feature little to no human interference; (5) the NJSOC EE program had minimal impacts on participants’ nature conceptions, ecological worldviews, and environmental perceptions and preferences, although it did differentially impact female participants; and (6) the program was perceived positively by participants, Americorps teachers, and a program administrator. These findings are of interest to environmental educators and managers who will increasingly interact with urban stakeholders whether through the delivery of EE programs or through the implementation of environmental management plans.

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