Date of Award

1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

College/School

College of Education and Human Services

Department/Program

Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monica Taylor

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Jeremy Price

Committee Member

Jacalyn Willis

Subject(s)

Roots & Shoots, Place-based education--New Jersey--Case studies, Environmental education--New Jersey--Case studies, Service learning--New Jersey--Case studies

Abstract

This dissertation is a qualitative interview study that explored the memories of 10 former students, now young adults, long removed from their intermediate school (grades 4 – 6) experiences. The purpose of the study was to learn what impact involvement in the school’s Roots & Shoots program had on later attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, the study focused on the relationship between distant childhood experiences and current dispositions towards the environment and civic responsibility. The results from the study were based on data collected from interviews, written reflections, and email correspondence, with 10 young adults who attended the intermediate school between 1997 and 2007. At the time of the study, the participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 26. They were interviewed, both individually and in a focus group setting, as well as asked to write reflections based on follow-up questions. Their responses were analyzed, using constant comparative thematic analysis. Each former student contributed significant data to the research, and all of their voices are included in this dissertation. While their perceptions’ of the program’s influence ranged along a continuum, all but one of the participants agreed that the most significant aspects of the program were its place-based, justice-oriented, service-learning dimensions. They linked their experiences in the school’s outdoor classroom to current attitudes and beliefs about nature and society. The data revealed that it was the outdoor experiences in a local environment that both planted the seeds for ecological literacy and inspired lifelong civic engagement.

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