Fall 2018



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Patty Born Selly

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Ashley Wright

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Dani Porter Born


This capstone thesis used an Explanatory Sequential Mixed Methods (ESMM) research design to answer the question, How do we support and encourage teachers to take their early childhood classes outdoors? While anecdotally, and through literature review, there appear to be barriers to outdoor activities, e.g., policies and regulations, or lack of safe clothing or equipment, there also is an abundance of research on the benefits of having children spend time in nature, or with natural elements. In the early childhood setting the mixed method survey research identified actual-stated common barriers to spending time outside with a class. An initial quantitative data survey of over one hundred early childhood teachers was analyzed to create follow up qualitative questions used in individual interviews with teachers experiencing the most and least barriers to get their class outdoors. The geographic focus of early childhood centers and teachers (35% urban, 52% suburban, 14% rural) within the Minneapolis/St. Paul (Minnesota) metro area elicited 102 valid responses: major reasons for staying indoors were: weather too cold (99%), rain 63%, too hot (58%), lack of appropriate clothing (42%). An overwhelming number of teachers expressed enjoyment at taking classes outdoors. Data on barriers to outdoor activity and solutions to those barriers was collected from the qualitative follow-up interviews conducted at the early childhood learning centers site tours. The data enhanced common barriers early childhood teachers face in taking their class outdoors: weather, appropriate clothing and dressing time, the use of indoor space vs outdoor activity, and differences in accrediting agency guidelines (there are no requirements for outdoor activity). However, in addition, suggestions were offered to facilitate outdoor activity: stocking extra outdoor clothing and having them close and convenient to the classroom, encouraging independent children dressing and assistance of other children, and increasing the time allotted for outdoor activities.

Research Methodology

Survey (attitude scale, opinion, questionnaire)


Early Childhood, Environmental Studies, Staff Development, Teachers/ Teaching








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