Term

Fall 12-18-2016

Capstone

Thesis

Degree Name

MAED: NSEE

Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Susan Manikowski

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Karen Shragg

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Amy Markle

Abstract

The research question addressed in this project was, what are the best practices for teaching environmental education to elementary aged home school students at nature centers located in a large metropolitan area in the Upper Midwest? This study, analyzes the best practices used by several nature centers that offer home school programs, and are located in the seven counties that comprise the physical limits of the study. A nature center is a designated community space where trained professionals guide and facilitate visitors in their exploration of the natural world, and in developing a relationship with nature. Additionally, this experience should subsequently foster a sustainable connection between the people of the community and their environment. Furthermore, environmental education is required under Federal Law. The data was obtained by physically visiting/observing the grounds and facilities, and conducting in depth interviews with the environmental education practioners at five of nature centers. The research conducted has a completion study of 56%; and the compilation of these best practices is supported by the research presented in the literature review. The research included the geographical characteristics of the nature center; available recreational and adventure programs; and home school program specifics. The author reviewed Eric Anderman’s examination and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of various research methodologies; and selected a hybrid of Action and Qualitative Research as the most appropriate method to be used. This methodology is relevant when it is conducted by teachers and examines their own practices using a holistic approach to naturalistic settings. This hybrid, or mixed method, research is applicable because environmental science is a multifaceted and complex subject. Some of the best practices reviewed by the author were: 1) time spent outside in conjunction with education correlates to far-reaching academic benefits; 2) experiential learning where a child uses all their senses in exploring and manipulating the natural world, intensifies a child’s desire to experiment; and 3) positive effects are manifested when humans experience nature’s power and grandeur. (346 words)

Research Methodology

Field Study, Focus Group, Interview, Program Evaluation

Included in

Education Commons

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