The United States is facing a dilemma related to the wellbeing of today's children and adolescents. Youth, on a broader scale, are increasingly afflicted with what author Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods (2005), has labeled "nature deficit disorder" (NDD). The NDD phenomenon is considered to have emerged as a result of children and adolescents not having as many direct experiences with or exposure to nature. Estimations are that from the years 1997 to 2003 there was a 50% drop in the number of youth who participated in outdoor activities, including walking, hiking, and fishing ("Mother Nature Knows Best", 2007). Furthermore, only six percent of children age 9 to 13 plays outside on their own (Louv, 2007). Play, however, is considered an essential part of the learning process throughout life and should not be neglected (Rieber, Smith, & Noah, 1998). In addition, there is growing evidence indicating that there are healthy outcomes associated with unstructured play in nature and that although children only play outdoors for limited amounts of time, they enjoy playing outdoors, and given more choice and/or opportunity, many would play outdoors more than they currently do (British Market Research Bureau, 2005; Ericson, 2001; White & Stoecklin, 1998). The purpose of the study was to further investigate the premise that structured integrative health and wellness programs in an out-of-school setting can play a significant role in helping young people adopt physical activity habits and behaviors, as well as influencing dietary choices. This study focused specifically on the evaluation of the Säjai® Wise Kids® Outdoors program to gain an increased comprehension of the effects that may result from intentional out-of-school time programming with wellness and outdoor exploration focus areas. The program was designed to be fun, experiential, and educational in promoting nature based play and nature appreciation in youth ages 6 to11 years of age while teaching them basic wellness concepts.
The research design used to evaluate the program's effects is best described as a mixed-methods approach. The study is based on a quasi-experimental, repeated measures design that utilized a collective (multi-site) case study technique with pre-, post- and follow-up assessments. Multiple sources of evidence were used in the study, including surveys, observations, and focus groups with youth and staff. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) served as the theoretical framework as the latent constructs of the TPB have been indicated in the literature as being predictive of behavior related to physical activity and dietary choices. Although program enrollment in the cities of St. Paul and San Francisco totaled 170 participants, 67 youth ages 6 to 13 from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds completed all three phases of data collection.
Quantitative measures were administered to assess change in adolescent outcomes related to the latent constructs of the TPB. While results of the quantitative analysis did not show significant differences across the three measures of the study, youth were found to display significantly higher than average means at baseline. This supports the possibility that youth who showed a higher affiliation towards the constructs measured at baseline, as well as at the end of implementation, will have a continued or greater desire or intention to spend time in the outdoors, thus leading to increased physical activity. Triangulation of qualitative and quantitative findings provided further evidence that out-of-school time programs that are intentionally designed to engage youth with concepts focused on wellness and the natural environment, such as Wise Kids® Outdoors, have the ability to serve as a gateway of opportunity for youth to explore and discover a relationship with nature.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2009. Major: Education, Rec/Park/Leisure Studies. Advisor: Dr. Keith C. Russell. 1 computer file (PDF) v, 289 pages, appendices A-G. Ill. (some col.)
Lewis, Terence Grant , Jr..
Youth and nature: assessing the impact of an integrated wellness curriculum on nature based play and nature appreciation for youth in out-of-school time recreation programming..
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The United States is facing a dilemma related to the wellbeing of today's children and adolescents. Youth, on a broader scale, are increasingly afflicted with what author Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods ...
Research in chemical education has shown that while students (K-20) can perform well on tasks that require use of algorithmic and symbolic skills, they struggle with tasks that require conceptual understanding of chemistry. ...