Adam Cheeseman: Drawing Connections to Nature: Childhood Environmental Learning at Summer Camps


Hi. My name is Adam Cheeseman. I’m a graduate student
at Dalhousie University working under the supervision of Dr. Tara Wright. My
work focuses on understanding environmental learning experiences of
children who participate in an environmental education summer camp
program. Specifically I’m very interested in nature exposure and environmental
education and how summer camps can provide a space for children to learn
about environmental topics while developing a strong connection with
nature. Previous research has discussed the disconnection between youth and the
outdoors. Although children are interested in being outdoors, a number
of barriers, including perceived dangers, lack of accessible green space and
influences of Technology restrict children’s ability to participate in
outdoor activities. As you can imagine this causes a whole host of issues including
impacts on physical and mental health, feelings of environmental responsibility
and, most importantly for my research, opportunities for Environmental Learning.
Environmental Learning is important to consider as it’s been shown to be critical
in the development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours later on in life. Unfortunately recent work on Environmental Learning has not given
space for the participant voice. That is, campers and learners who are directly
impacted by education programs are not commonly asked how they feel about their
experiences or what they found most meaningful about their participation and
instead most studies focus on understanding the perspectives of teachers or instructors. To address this gap my research focuses on understanding how a program has
impacted the environmental learning experiences of campers in three learning
domains: knowledge, feelings and behaviors. In order to measure these factors,
campers were surveyed both before and after the camp to capture their
experiences they had with the program. Parents were also interviewed three to
four months after the camp in hopes of understanding what sorts of benefits and
learning experiences were retained by campers. As part of these surveys, campers
were asked to draw images relating to their learning experiences. Major themes developed through
analyzing these images showed that campers enjoyed learning about nature at camp
as the outdoor environment provided a space for hands-on practical learning. Campers also felt equipped to create positive environmental change after the
program and developed understanding that nature is an integral part of their
lives. Through this project we have been able to contribute to alleviating the
current gap in Environmental Learning literature by allowing children
participating in the program to share their experiences. In summary preliminary
results suggest that this summer camp is able to provide space for children to
learn about and connect with the natural world. This is incredibly important as these
experiences may be able to assist in the future development of environmentally
responsible adults. Thank you.

One comment

  • Kim Kelsey

    I was interested in your 3-min video on learning outcomes from environmental camps. I worked as a Nature Interpretor in the 1980s (NF) and we held regular class and guiding/scouting programs in spring and fall. I was always impressed by the kids' interest and what the majority of individuals derived from their visit. In later years I worked with Prov Dept of Fisheries (NS) as a Habitat Tech and had the pleasure of meeting many members of fishing and river-improvement associations (adults, for the most part). I consider myself an environmentalist and think my experience growing up on a farm and spending most of my spare time outdoors may have contributed to that particular frame of mind. Plus, I'm old, we didn't have electronic distractions that people have today. I hope env. camps of today ban these devices from their programs. Sorry for the long comment. Keep up the fantastic work!

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