Exploring the Development of Fourth Graders' Environmental Identity Through Participation in a Semi-Formal Nature Club
AuthorBrock, Ryan James
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Nature deficit, where disconnections occur between children and nature have come to the forefront of environmental education in recent years. This study explored how fourth graders in an after-school Nature Club developed or strengthened their environmental identity, thus decreasing nature deficit. Through a program that utilized semi-formal instruction, both classroom learning and direct experiences with nature, took place over a nine week period of time. Six children were followed as qualitative data was collected and analyzed for themes that would reveal how adolescent children in the developmental stage of concrete operations developed environmental identity. The results indicate that all students strengthened their environmental identity when social aspects were embedded. Students who entered Nature Club with low environmental identity required more direct experiences with nature while those with higher environmental identity required a combination of reflective components along with nature experiences. Based upon this study, the nine-week program which combined formal and non-formal means of learning was able to strengthen environmental identity in each of the participants. A strong theme of social learning, not explicitly identified in the literature was found. Additionally, and most importantly, findings also indicate that educators, both formal and non-formal, who teach environmental education and seek to strengthen environmental identity for adolescents for early interventions need to understand the development of environmental identity in concrete operational learners at a theoretical level.