Learners Engagement During a Novel Residential Environmental Education Experience: The Influence of Personal Histories on Interests, Identities, and Stewardship
Wetzstein, Lia J.
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Environmental education is focused on producing informed citizens capable of stewarding the natural world. In the past, there has been little understanding of how participants' personal histories interact with environmental education experiences. This dissertation examines how participants' cultures and lived realities interact with a unique, annual residential environmental education program that engaged youth in novel experiences in a semi-pristine wilderness. This research took place over two-years, using ethnographic methods, including; participant observations, artifact reviews, and post-experience interviews. This dissertation consists of three analytical chapters focused on different learning and educational issues. The research questions that each chapter addresses are as follows: 1. How do the experiences of students differ during a 5-day residential environmental education program? How do student's prior knowledge and experience with nature affect their connection to the environment? 2. How does the residential environmental education experience change student's connection to the natural world, in terms of environmental interest, stewardship, and identity? 3. How does the recognition or lack of acknowledgment of participant's cultures and lived realities affect their residential environmental education experience? These chapters serve to provide new ways to empirically understand a residential experience and its outcomes. Specifically, how an individual's cognitive, social, and cultural experience affected their learning process in a residential environmental education setting. Chapter two provides the first empirical understanding of participants' different interaction stances with the natural world during a residential program and how those stances were tied to participants' prior knowledge, experience, identity and interest. Chapter three describes changes to participants attributed to the residential program in terms of identity, interest and stewardship. These variables have not been previously considered together in understanding residential program impacts. The fourth chapter fills a void in research by providing an empirical understanding of the intersection of participants' lived realities with the residential program.
- Education - Seattle