THE GOALS BLOG
A collection of feel-good stories, inspirational readings, and published research from leading scientists and
institutions re-affirming the importance of our mission and the work we're doing at GOALS.
Connecting students to nature – How intensity of nature experience and student age influence the success of outdoor education programs.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Education Research found that student age and length of time in natural surroundings both influence positive changes in connectedness to nature - one of the primary objectives of every GOALS expedition.
The strength of students’ connection to nature following participating in two outdoor environmental education programs were analyzed in this study. Both environmental education programs studied shared a primary goal of "reconnecting students with nature through memorable hands-on experiences in a natural environment" - a rainforest in this particular case.
A total of 601 students ranging in age from 7 to 18 years old were randomly assigned to one of three subject groups; a 5-day residential environmental program (n=194); a 1-day outdoor educational program (n=182); and a control group who received lessons at school covering the same content (n=225).
A self-report tool called The Nature in Self (INS) scale was used for data collection. Participants used a scale ranging from 1 (feeling completely separated from nature) to 7 (feeling completely connected with nature), and students in all three groups completed the INS three times: 2 weeks prior to their experience (pre-test), immediately after (post-test), and six weeks after the experience (retention test).
Baseline (pre-test) scores showed no significant differences between the 5-day and the 1-day sample. Post-test scores indicated that both experimental groups (5-day and 1-day) had significantly stronger connections to nature than they did prior to the experience. The respective control cohorts did not show any significant change in individual nature connectedness. Retention-test scores indicated that both experimental groups had highly significant long-term increases in connectedness to nature. This increase, however, was significantly stronger for the participants of the 5-day program.
This study indicates that extended outdoor environmental education programs - like those that GOALS provides - are more effective in creating positive long-term shifts in the way participants perceive their level of connection to nature than shorter immersion programs or lessons taught in the classroom. Getting kids out of the classroom for a few hours is a great place to start, but if we are to create long-term changes in the way kids view their connection to nature, this study (and piles of empirical data collected by GOALS) makes it clear that they need to spend several nights under the stars!
Braun, T., Dierkes, P., (2017). Connecting students to nature – How intensity of nature experience and student age influence the success of outdoor education programs. Environmental Education Research, 23(7), 937-949.