Outdoor education and its impact on children

Today, there are many ways to look at our environmental challenges, and science is now starting to ask the question, “Why do people hold such different views?”

If we gain a better understanding of why some people care about the environment, and others do not, then we may be able to make a difference. If people aren’t educated about the environment, they may gain their perception solely from those who shun environmental concerns.

In our First-Year Inquiry Seminar, “Wilderness or WalMart,” we researched the topic and proposed several possible reasons to explain why people have different environmental ethics. These can include anything from where you were raised, your outdoor experiences as a child, race, gender, wealth, political affiliation, involvement in media and technology, and your overall understanding of the environment.

The thesis of my research essay was “The lack of outdoor education directly affects people’s opinions and views of the environment.” While doing research for my essay I discovered several things that I hadn’t expected to find. Scientists have come to the realization that for children to understand the environment the process doesn’t need to be scientifically driven, but it has to include a personal connection.

This approach allows children to become more interested in nature itself, and it fosters a curiosity about the science behind the environment. As part of the study, scientists went to random school districts, and took students from eight schools into a moorland. The schools each took part in the same outdoor activities, learning about the area’s animals, plants and climate.

The scientists taught the students about carbon sinks and about how each person’s carbon footprint affects the environment. This helped create a direct link between students and the environment. Afterward, the students were observed to have displayed more creativity with their work, and they reported spending more time outdoors. They also said they had a stronger desire to protect the environment.

Kyle McAnallen of Boscawen is a freshman at Franklin Pierce University, where he is majoring in Environmental Science. His research and presentation on “Why Do People Have Different Views on the Environment?” was one of five winners from a recent showcase at FPU.

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